Maputo — Mozambican Health Minister Armindo Tiago on Wednesday warned of the dangers of a likely “third wave” of the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease, and urged all Mozambican citizens to continue strict adherence to preventive measures.

He was speaking at a ceremony where his Ministry received equipment from some of its partners. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) donated X-ray machines, while the South African petrochemical company Sasol provided fuel and alcohol for disinfection.

“In addition to detecting tuberculosis, a disease that affects at least 110,000 Mozambicans a year, these advanced radiological systems can be used to diagnose and treat Covid-19, thus increasing the overall capacity of the Mozambican health service”, said Martin MacLaughlin, deputy director of USAID-Mozambique.

Ovidio Rudolfo, general director of Sasol in Mozambique, declared “we have concluded the acquisition and distribution of 250,000 litres of fuel for the emergency vehicles used to treat cases related with the coronavirus.

The Lisbon-based Global Investment Bank donated 11,000 pairs of surgical gloves, while the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank provided a consignment of 28,000 N95 face masks, regarded as essential protective equipment for health workers.

Tiago took the opportunity to stress the need for prevention in order to avoid succumbing to a third wave of the virus. His warning came in the wake of a sudden increase in cases of Covid-19 in South Africa, which led South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to declare “We’re already in the third wave”.

Linked to the third wave is the rapid spread of the Indian strain of the coronavirus, which is more virulent, more transmissible and hence potentially more lethal than the original virus. So far the Indian variant has not yet been diagnosed in Mozambique – but given the proximity of South Africa, and the fact that perhaps as many as a million Mozambicans are living and working there, it is only a matter of time before this strain crosses the border.

“I urge all Mozambicans, including those who have already taken the vaccine, to continue practicing preventive measures, such as social distancing, regular washing of hands, and the use of masks”, said Tiago. “That is the only way we can avoid the entry of new variants into the country”.

He added that Mozambique is on “maximum alert” against a possible third wave. Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that at least 44 countries are currently grappling with a third wave.

Also on Wednesday, the health authorities reported a further 20 cases of Covid-19. Since the start of the pandemic, 530,868 people have been tested for the coronavirus, 1,322 of them in the previous 24 hours.

According to a Ministry of Health press release, of the samples tested, 473 were from Maputo city, 182 from Maputo province, 227 from Inhambane, 104 from Nampula, 98 from Tete, 79 from Manica, 79 from Gaza, 36 from Sofala, 29 from Cabo Delgado, and 15 from Zambezia. No tests were reported from Niassa.

1,302 of the tests yielded negative results and 20 people tested positive for the coronavirus. This brings the number of cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Mozambique to 70,287. The new cases identified on Wednesday were all men. 19 were Mozambican citizens and one was a foreigner (but the Ministry release did not give his nationality).

Of the new cases, 11 were from Maputo city and two from Maputo province. So the city and the province accounted for 65 per cent of the positive cases. There were also five cases from Tete and two from Nampula.

The positivity rate (the proportion of those tested found to be infected) for this 24 hour period was 1.5 per cent. This compares with 3.2 per cent on Tuesday, 7.5 per cent on Monday, 3.1 per cent on Sunday, two per cent on Saturday, and 2.3 per cent on Friday. The available data thus points to an overall downward trend in the positivity rate.

Over the same 24 hour period, four Covid-19 patients (two in Maputo and two in Nampula) were discharged from hospital and five new patients were admitted (three in Maputo and two in Sofala).

As of Wednesday, 25 people were under medical care in the Covid-19 wards (up from 24 on Tuesday). 17 of these patients (68 per cent) were in Maputo, and there were two each in Nampula, Zambezia, Tete and Sofala. There were no patients in the Covid-19 facilities in the other six provinces.