Irene de Conceiçao Mendes, from Mozambique, is Hispanist.
Since February 21 (if I am not mistaken), the first cases of contagion have been announced in Mozambique. Currently, official data indicate that there are 21 people infected with the coronavirus and no deaths. One person has already recovered. The epidemic is located in the provinces of Maputo (southern Mozambique) and Cabo Delgado (northern Mozambique).
The authorities have taken several preventive measures, ranging from recommending that people wash their hands (with soap and water, ashes, alcohol or gel) to putting their elbows in front of their mouths when coughing.
In mid-March, the first presidential statement was issued, announcing a ban on meetings of more than 300 people. On 23 March, higher education institutions were closed, and the relationship between teachers and students continues at a distance. The ban was later extended to groups of more than 50 people and then reduced to 10.
All entertainment centres have closed, markets and supermarkets have reduced their working hours. Protective measures have been intensified by the requirement to wear masks on public transport and in informal sales outlets.
However, the main problem is the inability to test the population on a massive scale. The data announced by the Government may not be realistic as few people have been tested for coronavirus.
The government is very concerned about this crisis. For example, Mozambique’s water company has stated that the entire population, including those who do not pay, will be guaranteed supply.
Everywhere, even on private property, a bucket of water or hand sanitizers can be seen at the entrance. It is a habit that we have all adopted.
Motorcycle and taxi drivers have rebelled against the idea that they should not be allowed to drive during the state of emergency. They say that this is their only means of subsistence and that if the ban is maintained, their families will starve to death. Some of these drivers have been arrested for disobedience.
On the other hand, public transport drivers went on strike because they could only carry 3% of passengers. According to them, they did not even have enough income to buy fuel. Two days later, the government again revised the decree and cancelled some measures. Seated passengers are now allowed, as are motorcycles and bicycle taxis, but everyone must wear a mask, including passengers.
I work in a private institution of higher education and, in addition to teaching, I am the director, so I have to go to work every day. I continue to give courses to my students remotely, using teaching platforms or e-mails.
The dilemma we face is tuition fees. Some parents and even students do not find it acceptable to pay tuition fees when there are no face-to-face classes. This means that if parents stop paying tuition, my colleagues and I may find ourselves without pay. If that happens, it will be a disaster!
What I miss the most is the opportunity to be with my mother, who is already 80 years old, and my 4 grandchildren. This lack of family relationships affects many people.
In my opinion, it is the children who suffer most from this situation, because they cannot live and play with other children, or with some of their relatives.
So far we have not (yet) had a shortage of food or hygiene products. We lack masks and alcohol, but the Mozambicans have started to make them themselves (by folding cloth) or using handkerchiefs to cover their mouths and noses.
Translated by Paola Fourcaud