Maputo – The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, is insisted that its forthcoming sitting will begin, as scheduled, on 25 March – even though it clearly violates the government guideline that no meetings of more than 300 people should be held for fear of the spread of the respiratory disease Covid-19, caused by the new coronavirus first detected in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Although no cases at all of Covid-19 have yet been diagnosed in Mozambique, the government is taking no chances, and among the measures announced by President Filipe Nyusi on Saturday is a ban on meetings of more than 300 people.
There are always more than 300 people at a parliamentary sitting. In addition to the 250 deputies themselves, there are support staff, caterers and security, a large number of media personnel, and invited guests, including members of the government.
A spokesperson for the Assembly, Oriel Chemane, on Monday merely said there would be “extraordinary measures” to meet the challenges imposed by the Coronavirus threat.
He did not say what these might be, only that a working group has been set up to propose measures. “Internal work is being done to see how the sitting will be organised”, he said.
Elsewhere in the country, events are simply being cancelled. Thus the governor of Maputo province, Julio Parruque has scrapped a planned visit to Boane district, since this would certainly attract crowds of over 300.
Lurio University has cancelled the inaugural lectures planned for its northern delegations in Pemba and Mozambique Island.
The activities of Maputo Jazz Week, scheduled for 19-24 April, have been suspended. So have all the motor sports organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of Mozambique (ATCM). The second phase of a Pre-Olympic Beach Volleyball Tournament in Maputo, due to be held next weekend, has been cancelled.
Quarantine measures are being imposed on anyone arriving in Mozambique from countries with major coronavirus outbreaks. According to the independent television station STV, there are eight people in quarantine in the southern province of Inhambane. They are seven Italians and one Chinese citizens. So far none of them have displayed symptoms of coronavirus.
Quarantine was ordered for two Chinese citizens who arrived on Monday at Nampula airport from Johannesburg. Since they are travelling on to the port city of Nacala, their details have been sent to the Nacala health authorities, who will receive them and follow them during the 14 days of obligatory quarantine.
Four Italian and four Chinese citizens who crossed into Mozambique from South Africa at the Ressano Garcia border post between Friday and Sunday have been quarantined, some in Maputo and some in the central province of Sofala.
They were all screened and found to be in good health. Nonetheless they will be isolated for 14 days, and every two days will be visited by health staff.
A case of a passenger running a high temperature who was checked at Quelimane airport proved to be a false alarm. Diagnosis showed that he was suffering, not from coronavirus, but from malaria.
Bit by bit, the severe impact of coronavirus on the Mozambican economy is becoming clear. The latest company to report serious losses is the publicly-owned Mozambique Post Office. Nowadays the Post Office makes most of its money out of its parcels service – and most of this is with China.
The Post Office reports that the collapse in the number of parcels carried has cost it US$349,000.