High Commission of the Republic of Mozambique

New coronavirus variant not yet confirmed in Mozambique

Maputo, 12 Jan (AIM) – The Mozambican health authorities say that the first samples taken from patients infected by the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease and sent abroad for testing have proved negative for the new variant of the virus detected in South Africa.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference on 11 January, Sergio Chicumbe, the director of surveys of the National Health Institute (INS), said the samples, collected randomly, had been sent to a reference laboratory abroad because the INS itself does not have the equipment necessary to carry out the test.

“We received the result from the first batch and it was negative”, said Chicumbe, “and in the coming period, we expect to receive the results from the next batches”.

He explained that identifying the new variants is time-consuming, and it could take another one or two weeks before the rest of the laboratory results are available. “Surveillance of the mutations is complex, and the technology is not fully established in Mozambique”, he added.

Furthermore, the regional reference laboratories are under enormous pressure, “so the time it takes for us to receive results from the batches we sent may not be ideal”.

Asked whether the sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 cases diagnosed in recent days in Mozambique, might be related with the new variant, Chicumbe recognized there could be a connection, particularly in light of Mozambique’s proximity to South Africa.

It was in South Africa that the new variant was identified in the second half of December, and it is believed to be driving a second wave of infections in that country.

“It has not been confirmed that the new variant is circulating in Mozambique, but we admit the possibility”, said Chicumbe.

With the January surge in infections, the overall positivity rate in Mozambique (the percentage of people tested for the coronavirus who prove positive) has risen to 7.7 per cent, said Chicumbe. But in some provinces, the rate is much higher – measured in the past week at 26.5 per cent in Maputo city, 29.1 per cent in Maputo province, 29.4 per cent in Nampula and 33.9 per cent in Manica.

Nonetheless there are many fewer Covid-19 cases and deaths in Mozambique than in most member countries of SADC (Southern African Development Community). As of Sunday, there were 853.01 cases of Covid-19 per million inhabitants in Mozambique. The only mainland SADC countries with lower rates are Angola and Malawi (with 744.61 and 525.52 cases per million inhabitants, respectively).

At the other end of the scale, South Africa has recorded almost 22,484 cases per million in habitants, and Namibia 13,120 per million.

Currently, Mozambique has the lowest Covid-19 death rate in SADC. There have been 7.47 Covid-19 deaths per million inhabitants. Malawi has almost twice as many deaths, at 13.92 per million. The highest SADC death rates are from South Africa (607.83 per million), Eswatini (263.07 per million) and Namibia (118.78 per million).