While wealthy countries with high coronavirus vaccination rates are reopening their borders and their economies, countries with more restricted vaccine access are facing tougher measures.
In Mozambique, that means popular beaches were closed this week over fears of spreading the virus, less than two weeks after they were cautiously reopened. Officials fear that beaches along the Indian Ocean – which are at the heart of the country’s tourism industry and its communal life – could become hot spots of infection or encourage lax attitudes towards COVID-19 regulations.
According to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 5 percent of Mozambique’s adult population has been fully vaccinated against the virus. And officials have warned that life may not return to normal even as temperatures rise and summer approaches.
The Mozambican government on Wednesday announced the closure of 18 beaches around the capital Maputo and resort towns such as Zai Zai and Tofo for at least two weeks.
This is in stark contrast with neighboring South Africa, which has the continent’s highest number of Covid-19 infections, but has eased restrictions and kept its beaches open as vaccination rates continue to rise. Other popular Indian Ocean tourist destinations, such as the islands of Mauritius and Seychelles, have welcomed the return of tourists after successful vaccination campaigns.
According to the World Health Organisation, Mozambique has recorded an average of only 30 daily coronavirus cases in the past seven days and no new Covid deaths. Still, the country, which has reported 150,899 cases since the start of the pandemic, has taken tough measures to keep infections down.
Officials reopened beaches on September 23 as the country emerged from a third wave of infections, although the reopening came with a caveat that the easing of restrictions did not mean the end of the pandemic. Authorities continued to enforce strict rules, especially on beaches, banning alcohol consumption, gatherings and games, and timing the closure at 5 p.m.
Beach-goers were warned that swift action would be taken for violating the rules. And that came this week when a government spokesman, Filimo Suazzi, announced the closure of some of Mozambique’s most popular beaches, accusing it of “bad behavior”.
Mozambique entered its third wave of infections earlier this year, with more than 4,400 new cases reported in the first week of July. With only three doctors per 100,000 people, the country’s health facilities were strained, according to the US embassy in Mozambique. Authorities moved swiftly to close schools, limit shopping hours at markets, and impose an overnight curfew.