Mozambique: Can 20 Million Mozambicans Really Become Infected With COVID-19?

Maputo — The cumulative number of cases of the respiratory disease Covid-19 in Mozambique could reach 20 million, claimed the Minister of State Administration, Ana Comoana, on Monday – but later in the day the deputy director of the National Health Institute (INS), Eduardo Samo Gudo, retorted that this was a “worst case scenario” that could only happen if no preventive measures were taken.
Comoana was introducing the “Multi-sector Plan for Responding to and Mitigating the Impacts of Covid-19” at a session of the government’s Disaster Management Coordinating Council, chaired by Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario
So astonished were some analysts on Mozambican social media by the figure of 20 million Mozambicans infected by the disease that they assumed Comoana had misspoke, and that she had meant to say 20,000.
But no – the figure 20 million appears in her power point presentation, which does not say this is a worst case scenario, and gives the figure an air of inevitability.
She went on to claim that, of the 20 million cases, 350,000 would be hospitalised, and 40,000 would need to be in intensive care units.
15 isolation centres should be set up with 3,000 beds, she continued, with an additional two tents for each of the country’s 1,674 health units. In the intensive care units, there should be one doctor for very four beds, and one nurse for every three beds.
The effort required would involve hiring more than 2,000 health professionals and 2,200 village health workers (APEs).
Comoana predicted that the crisis would last for six months. But there is clearly no way that thousands of intensive care beds can be arranged, and over 4,000 new health workers recruited in that period. The scenario she painted was one for the complete overwhelming of the Mozambican health service.
20 million is about two thirds of the entire Mozambican population, children included. Detailed projections by the National Statistics Institute (INE) indicate that the population this year will reach slightly more than 30 million.
In none of the countries affected by the pandemic has the number of infected people come anywhere near two thirds of the total population, and Comoana did not suggest any reason for Mozambique leapfrogging over countries severely stricken with Covid-19, such as China, Italy or the United States.
Currently, Mozambique only has 39 confirmed cases of Covid-19, eight of whom have made a full recovery. The most populous provinces in the country, Nampula and Zambezia, have recorded no cases at all.
A leap of 39 to 20 million in the space of six months, seems statistically impossible, even if one assumes that there are a large number of undetected, asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 among the general population.
The first case of the disease was reported on 22 March. If the disease really was rampant, but largely undiscovered, among the Mozambican public, then by now one would have expected at least some of these people to show up at Mozambican hospitals complaining of severe pneumonia. And that has not happened.
Comoana went on to set a budget for the response to Covid-19. She put the total cost at slightly more than 34 billion meticais – about 507 million US dollars, at current exchange rates.
Apparently the Prime Minister was not impressed. According to a report in the independent newsheet “MediafAX”, Rosario said the document must be corrected before it goes before the Council of Ministers (Cabinet).
On Monday afternoon, at the Health Ministry’s daily press conference on Covid-19, Samo Gudo said the 20 million figure “is the worst case scenario. It’s what is used for planning. But measures are under way to avoid at all cost that his worst case scenario happens”.
The 20 million figure could only be true, if no measures at all were taken to halt the spread of Covid-19. “Obviously, for Mozambique we cannot speak of the worst scenario because measures have already been taken”, he said. “Mozambique took measures in advance, and was careful not to make the same mistakes as some other countries”.
If these measures had not been taken, Samo Gudo added, then there would indeed be a risk of an explosive spread of the pandemic, and of a collapse of the health system.
The best case scenario, he added, would depend on Mozambicans complying with the measures demanded by the current state of emergency, such as ensuring personal and collective hygiene, implementing social distancing measures, and reducing unnecessary travel.
Comoana had claimed that her figures were based on modelling, but Samo Gudo said the model is updated every day by a team from the INS.
“If the progress of the epidemic is held back”, said Samo Gudo, “then we are ensuring that the country will not reach the peak of infections. But the measures adopted will only have an effect, if they are complied with scrupulously”.

Source: Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique