East Timor: Second-highest daily figure for new coronavirus cases, at 239

East Timor on Friday reported its second-highest daily figure for new confirmed cases of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, at 239, down from a peak of 253 on Thursday, with the vast majority in the capital, Dili. 

In an online news conference, Rui Araújo, one of the coordinators of the Integrated Centre for Crisis Management (CIGC), the unit set up to oversee the official response to the pandemic, said that 198 of the new cases were registered in Dili, 20 in Baucau, 10 in Viqueque, five in Liquica and four in Manatuto, and one each in Bobonaro and Ermera.

Of all the people recorded in the 24 hours as having the virus, 26 showed symptoms of Covid-19.

On the outbreak at Becora jail, Araújo said that 220 cases had been confirmed over two days, or 39.5% of all inmates there. One death associated with Covid-19 was also registered on Thursday.

“The authorities of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice are working together to organise isolation within the prison establishment,” he said. “From a public health point of view it is important.”

Araújo also explained some details of the deaths recorded on Thursday – in addition to the inmate at Becora – noting that in both cases the families had refused to accept the diagnosis of Covid-19.

“In the case of Caicoli in Dili, the case was detected on 7 May, but the family and the surrounding community contested the result, and did not want to accept that it was Covid-19,” he said. “The lady had comorbidity and yesterday [Thursday] the Guido Valadares National Hospital reported that the lady was transported [there] by the family, but died on the way.

“The family continues to dispute that the lady was infected [with Covid-19], despite efforts made by community leaders, the Dili municipal administration and also the health teams showing laboratory data,” he added, saying that the family had rejected the funeral protocol to be applied to people who died with Covid-19, which “naturally poses additional risks of spreading the virus in the family and in the neighbourhood.”

In the other case of death, in Liquiçá, west of Dili, the patient was tested on 11 May after presenting to health services with respiratory symptoms.

“But she rejected hospitalisation and yesterday she passed away,” he said. “In this case the family members agreed to apply the Covid-19 [funeral9 protocol and the municipality’s health service with support from the MoH [Ministry of Health] and CIGC is providing support.”

In the last 24 hours a total of 86 patients are deemed to have recovered from the virus, leaving 1,968 active cases. The cumulative total of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic is 4,118. 

“The data reported today shows an evolution of the incidence rate which is currently 12.5 per 100,000 inhabitants and 40.8 per 100,000 inhabitants in Dili,” said Araújo. “The risk in the municipality of Dili is now very high.” 

At the Vera Cruz isolation centre, which cares for people with Covid-19, there are currently 26 patients, five of whom are in a serious condition and need help breathing.

“With the detected increase in cases, the number of moderate and severe cases requiring hospitalisation is also increasing,” Araújo stressed. He acknowledged the need to increase the testing capacity of the National Laboratory, which has already had more resources in the last two months and which can carry out between 1,600 and 1,700 tests daily. 

“It will be necessary to further increase facilities in terms of equipment for PCR testing and technical staff,” he said. “We are studying this possibility so that in the next four to six weeks we will have greater capacity because there is a need to do more tests.”