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2nd Lockdown - DAY ELEVEN - If it is Ram's shopping day it must be Saturday


The passing of the days is all different under lockdown. If it’s Ram’s shopping day, it must be Saturday, for example. Or Wednesday? If the rubbish collectors come, it must be Tuesday. Or Friday? Which also happen to be Kisna’s shopping days. And if it’s my shopping day, it must be Monday. Or Thursday? And if it’s nobody’s shopping day, it must be Sunday. Not that we are great shoppers.

Sunday tomorrow. And there won’t even be a little pile of newspapers to choose from, to read a bit here, mull over a bit there, and fold one up again, and open another out to do the crossword, or go back to that interview you saved for later. You won’t have Ram exclaiming, “Did you see what so-and-so said in his editorial?” And me replying, “No wonder Michael stopped buying that newspaper after being a regular for 20 years!” or “Didn’t you predict last night that he would say that!” We have this habit of predicting what line editorialists’ will take. It’s much easier than predicting the weather. 

As things are going, we risk running out of used newspapers – ones that are already read, cuttings carefully selected for scanning for Lalit’s documentation centre – kept for important uses down the production chain at home. We are in charge, in our house, of L’Express and Le Mauricien – someone else in Lalit does 5-Plus, someone else Le Defi, someone else Hebdo, someone else Star, and Alain is in charge of Scope, in which there are no longer articles on political and social things – so he can just nip through each copy and do the Sudoku. When I think of the newspaper chain, I remember the member who died last year, Hamid, who we miss sorely. After everyone was finished with newspaper cuttings, he got to go through the newspapers to do his own selection of articles, noting dates and doing cuttings – mainly on politikay – for discussion with his friends in Tranquebar. Sometimes we could rely on him to retrieve a key article from “Sant Dokimantasyon Hamid” that turned out, in retrospect two months later, to have been important. Anyway, when we are finished doing our cuttings at home in Ragoo Lane, the rest of the newspaper is added to a pile kept for enveloping avocadoes for even ripening, and to be used as linings for the two big cuvette that our dogs, Lock and Down, each curl up and sleep in, in perfect circles. Then the two dogs get up the next morning and shred their “bedclothes”, making confetti on the back patio, swept up to add to the compost drums, of which we have five. Another thing, neighbours in Ragoo Lane come calling out, “Namaste! Ena lagazet, Bowji?” And I always oblige, tying up a pile with raffia. I’ve right now got a secret pile under a chair next to Ram’s computer desk in our bedroom. This is possible because, as well as our personal copies, we get the used ones from the previous month from the Lalit centre in Grand River North West – yes, the party subscribes to all periodicals for all members’ perusal as part of our self-education. So, we get to bring home the old Le Mauricien and L’Express – which resolves the odd Recto-Verso problem for cuttings. Sometimes, we can get the article direct on-line, so we can cut-and-paste virtually. But the paper newspapers are not always the same as the on-line versions – except now, when there are no paper ones at all. All this to say that, if the lockdown isn’t too, too long, our used newspaper stocks will last. But, tomorrow, like every day, there are no newspapers.

And so, just like a Public Holiday, with capital first letters and all, tomorrow, Sunday, is the same as any other day now. 

Nurses’ days have changed, too. In hospitals, they are working 24-hour shifts:  one 24-hour shift on, and one 24-hour shift off. But, at least they aren’t all alone, solo all night. It’s usually four staff in charge of the ward for the 24-hour shift. Jeetoo now has 30 or so staff in quarantine, after the admission to a quarantine ward of a sailor from a Russian vessel arriving from Seychelles and initially tested negative for Covid, only to test positive a couple of days later, and then get transferred to the ENT hospital, where everyone is always in PPE clothing and apparatus. Two of the sailor’s matelots are already in the ENT, where everyone in Mauritius with a positive test is admitted for observation, and if necessary treatment. Dr. Gaud yesterday once again announced that, so far touch wood, no very serious cases in this wave of, so far, 181 positive cases. Just one or two patients needed a wee bit of oxygen.

So, the only change in the days as they go by, is how many new cases or new clusters there are in this second wave of Covid, or how many vaccines. A new cluster has been declared in the hamlet of Canot (pronounced “Kannot”, I insist). Canot has the same postmen as Bambous, including Ragoo Lane. So, the second wave approaches us. Already, the Red Zone of Constituencies 15, 16 and 17 was down as far as Bassin Branch Road, not far from us, and now it’s creeping up from the Canot side. The MMM opposition party MP, Rajesh Bhagwan, spoke decently to his electorate in Canot, where he has been MP since 1982, if I’m not mistaken – on a private radio program – or so I hear. Imagine how bad the Opposition is when we have to commend someone just for the fact that he “spoke decently” in times of the plague. Tuesday, the National Assembly meets. We will see how decently they all speak. Here’s to hoping the Loud Speaker has got his pianissimo button on his mike. But, it would take more than the click of a button to make him a philosophical speaker, who could weigh up issues before him instead of defending the executive.

Yesterday some 430 barristers were vaccinated. This was important. The anti-vax campaign recently took a legalistic turn. “The problem is the consent form,” Advocate Roshi Bhadain argued. His credibility had taken quite a hit after his speech at La Louise was debunked. But, the Press is short on news, what with the lockdown. 

Anyway, by way of contrast, Advocate Jean Claude Bibi can be relied upon to say something sensible, and he did. According to Le Defi he said, “la polémique autour du consent form n’est pas un facteur déterminant face à l’importance de protéger tous les Mauriciens contre la Covid-19. Personnellement je crois qu’avec plus d’explications sur ce formulaire dès le début, on n’en serait pas là, avec cette polémique et cette politisation de l’affaire.” Today more lawyers will be getting vaccinated. Even as the virus spreads. In Canot, the spread is beyond the contact-tracing results. It was random tests in this high-risk village (with links to the Curepipe College cluster) that picked up nine positives in Canot. So, let’s keep safe by respecting the lockdown as much as we can, and getting the vaccine as soon as we can.

Lindsey Collen