While wealthier countries with higher coronavirus vaccination rates are increasingly reopening their borders and their economies, nations with more restricted vaccine access are having to make tougher moves.
In Mozambique, that has meant closing popular beaches this week over fears of spreading the virus, less than two weeks after they were cautiously reopened. The authorities fear that beaches along the Indian Ocean — which are at the center of the country’s tourism industry and its communal life — could become infection hot spots or encourage a lax attitude toward Covid-19 regulations.
Just 5 percent of Mozambique’s adult population is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the authorities have warned that life cannot yet return to normal, even as temperatures rise and summer approaches.
The Mozambican government announced the closure on Wednesday, immediately shuttering 18 beaches around the capital, Maputo, and in resort towns like Xai Xai and Tofo, for at least two weeks.
It’s a 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 climb steadily. Other popular Indian Ocean tourist destinations, like the islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles, have welcomed the return of tourists after successful vaccination campaigns.
Mozambique has recorded an average of just 30 daily coronavirus cases in the last seven days and no new Covid deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Still, the country, which has recorded 150,899 cases since the start of the pandemic, has enforced strict measures to keep infections low.
The authorities reopened the beaches on Sept. 23 as the country emerged from a third wave of infections, although the reopening came with a warning that the easing of restrictions did not mean the end of the pandemic. Officials continued to impose strict regulations on beaches in particular, banning the consumption of alcohol, gatherings and games, and imposing a 5 p.m. closing time.
Beachgoers were warned that flouting the rules would lead to swift action. And that came this week as a government spokesman, Filimão Suazi, announced the closing of some of Mozambique’s most popular beaches, blaming “bad behavior.”
Mozambique entered its third wave of infections earlier this year, with over 4,400 new cases reported in the first week of July. With only three doctors per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mozambique, the country’s health facilities were strained. The authorities moved quickly to close schools, limit shopping times at markets and impose an overnight curfew.