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Covid-19: Sixth Day of Lockdown – The Test of Society

26.03.2020

The Mauritian Government has pivoted in its strategy from following the European model of voluntary social distancing, like in France, Britain and Spain, which it followed until the day before yesterday. 


Now it seems to have changed to follow the method used in China, South Korea and Singapore – all of which have been able to control the spread of this new virus by a total curfew. The method from the East is obviously better at controlling the spread of the virus * but the State needs to set into action very good ways to do this. And the way NOT to do it is by police violence. (See LALIT communiqué earlier today.( https://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/2412/lalit-reklam-sispansyon-imedya-lapolis-inplike-dan-tortir/)


The Government announced the total curfew including closure of all supermarkets, shops and bakeries, and only the next day announced the measures planned for people to get food. The delay was reckless. But anyway. The Government announced its plan. It is an ambitious two-pronged plan that this particular Government will not be very good at putting into action unless we, the people, can somehow take over to some extent and allow it to happen. Given we are not allowed out, it is not easy. 


Here is the Government’s plan: 


a) For those the State deems “needy” – the distribution of a very basic list of food to their doorstep. This will imply that the NEF network is mobilized to distribute food. The NEF staff will need masks and gloves and will need to take the staff doing the actual delivery to people’s doorsteps, one house by one, and police or SMF support will probably be necessary. But, what will make this distribution possible is if we can all help – via social networks first, and then via our own streets – to get everyone in each of these areas to co-operate sufficiently for this distribution to be able to take place in an orderly way. And we need to do this despite the Government’s inability to do so.


b) For everyone else, there will supposedly be a plan whereby people order and pay for basic goods that a joint venture of supermarket owners and the Ministry of Commerce will then organize to deliver to individual family’s homes. How this will work has not yet been established. But, it needs to be up and running at the same time as the NEF-type distribution, which is now.


And we need, as individuals, to have a minimum level of social support up and running in our own street for those usually living on daily income, which is no longer coming in, for those whose end-of-month income is due soon and supplies are running out, for those isolated from others or in any way ostracized, and generally for those in need. We can do this by walking down the centre of the road, if we are not on a main artery, and calling out to people from a distance, and sharing mobile numbers, for example. All this helps to keep us all calm.


New LALIT Demands:


1. All Government drivers from non-Health Ministry departments and all parastatal drivers must be called to work, using the vehicles they usually use where appropriate. This must be done with trade union support where possible. It must also be done on a regional basis, as far as possible. Drivers must be provided with protective masks and gloves, and as it become possible Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well, and deployed in two sectors:


One set of drivers and vehicles – In a roster to taxi hospital workers to and from work, and contact-tracing teams to trace contacts and to get to and from work.


A second set of drivers and vehicles – In a roster to transport food delivery through the NEF, with police or SMF support.


2. All civil servants must be put on stand-by to be called in to work in essential services. unions must as far as possible be involved in this process. 


Dangers


In LALIT, we remind everyone who reads our site and FB and gets our e-mails and social media posts:


There is a mixture of different problems that is making society very fragile. Even if the Government’s decision on the need for a health emergency curfew is the good decision, it is only as good as we can maintain the social cohesion of this society:


1. Social inequality is being exposed in all its ugliness. People living in poverty or on the edges of poverty, maybe one-fifth to one-quarter of Mauritians. They need food supplies.


2. There are people who are living in the pain and anguish of not getting the daily drugs that they have become sick with and that their bodies need. This means they are in extreme anxiety. We must recognize this desperation, and at least acknowledge it. Methadone is fortunately still being supplied (we hear from people who know).


3. There are people on social media who spread rumours. Though four have been arrested, there are always others. Many do this just to get the pleasure of how many “likes” or “shares” they get.


4. There are many people who never accepted the November election results, and some of them were already a bit hysterical at the time when all sorts of clearly “planted” ballots were being “discovered” every day at the end of last year.


5. The police, if they continue as some of them have so far proceeded, will have no respect, and this will make even food distribution very difficult.


In sum, we need to be the ones who help to make sure that food is distributed calmly. We need to be the ones who help to control the virus, at the same time as make sure everyone has food.


 


Lindsey Collen


for LALIT


* For arguments on this, here is a conference call (first 10 minutes is setting up the call, so be patient or skip it): 


https://zoom.us/rec/play/tZUuIeGtqjs3HIKRswSDCqR6W47sKqKs0CIX__ZfnUvjVyMANVKnYLEWNLHFmLTCIpdFIZGhTYdrnqCk