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2nd Lockdown – Day 21 – If we the people were Government


In the last 24-hours, the Government announced yesterday, there were as many as 29 new cases of Covid, and overnight another 23. This is alarming. The upward curve is vertiginous. In addition, the illness has found its way into hospitals and clinics – a worst-case scenario – and fragile patients, who go for their dialysis twice a week, have been infected. Two have since died. The whole thing is truly tragic.

It turns out that hospital staff – we only learn this now – have, of all people, fallen victim to the “anti-vaccination” conspiracy theories that are so virulent in France. This anti-vaccination propaganda on social media changes from being against AstraZeneca one week, then against Covaxin the next week, then anti-Chinese vaccine or Russian vaccine the next, then against any vaccine at all. Yesterday a well-known Mauritian hunger-striker put out a post on Facebook with gobbledygook about Covid not being a virus at all – so why get vaccinated – and it being linked to 5-G networks! So, the worst fake news on vaccines has not only spread like wild-fire in the Mauritian petty-bourgeoisie in general, but also right inside one of the key components to fighting Covid, the nursing staff of the country. The Government urgently needs, in the next 24 hours, to get top doctors to hold talks with meetings of nursing staff in well-aired social-distanced meetings on the essential responsibility of all health care workers to go get vaccinated, and to answer their queries and worries. When given the option to go first for vaccines at the end of January, apparently only 30% or so of nurses even turned up. And we, the public, find out at the end of March. 

Mauritius has, until the past three weeks, been famous for being amongst the few countries with excellent containment of the Coronavirus epidemic. No longer so. We will soon, if the Government does not pull itself together and if it instead just steams ahead with partial lifting of the lockdown even as the curve rises like that – without any proper consciousness-raising amongst the people – Mauritius will leave the list of the countries doing well against the pandemic. We will no longer be alongside New Zealand, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and Iceland. We are taking the risk of ending up in dire straits, like the USA where one in three people have lost someone close to Covid, like Brazil where health care is collapsing right now, and like all those European countries, take Italy and Spain, that have suffered so much illness, death and economic ruin. The more Covid illness, the more economic ruin. Only the bosses can’t see that. And yet, it is as simple as that. Not just will people be sick and die, not just will the health services be put to extraordinary test, but the economy will then really be in big trouble. We call on Government, do not bow down to short-sighted bosses’ demands to open up, when what we need is to contain this second wave like we did the first, before we open up more. If Government had bowed down during the first wave, Mauritius would now be in economic ruin. A lot of us would be dead, too. 

Already, we have a hospital and a clinic closed down because of the epidemic. The curve of new cases is rising too steeply to open up further. Instead of organizing NCE and PSAC examinations, the Mauritian Government should be postponing them. It should be preparing for food deliveries for those in difficulty like it did last time, while putting a strict lockdown in place to stop the spread of Covid. And the only way for this to work is for the Government somehow to get someone who can explain things clearly to come on MBC and other media every day for a few minutes to explain, explain, explain. 

What needs to be explained in detail:

- How we now know the virus spreads – this needs explaining to everyone.

- How people without symptoms spread the virus – a new phenomenon with Covid.

- How we now know how to prevent this spread – this too needs explaining in graphic detail, in multiple ways, and in good Kreol.

- How we now know just how many people suffer and die, if you get idiots at the helm, like Donald Trump. His politics, when he lifted the nation-wide lockdown under pressure from the bosses, ended up causing the death of over half-a-million Americans. In turn, this avoidable illness then caused a massive blow to the US economy. But, that’s a big economy. Mauritius’ economy is both small, based on silly things (real estate, off-shore scams, sugar-cane that has no future and a waning textile industry), and refusing to go into new domains – like kicking off with taking on thousands of workers in good jobs for massive food production – from our arable land, as a people, and our sea – for food security and export.  

- Urgently, we need a top epidemiologist who speaks good Kreol to come and explain how contact-tracing works, how it depends on us all co-operating.  

- How, in the long run, vaccines will permit society to lift the strict sanitary measures, like lockdowns. 

But we all need to go get vaccinated at the earliest chance – starting with all health care workers as an emergency mobilization, then all other front-liners, who are the interface that the virus needs to spread to their families and neighbourhoods, and then back again.

What is happening at the moment is that too many people are so confused they cannot distinguish between science and good sense, on the one hand, and rumours and conspiracy theories that are dangerous, on the other. If this is left to fester on, what happens is people put proper explanations of scientific value, on a par with any rumour they read on Facebook. When it comes to epidemics, we cannot return to the Middle Ages where “everyone to his or her opinion” was the best we could do. We can all hold our own opinion on which colour T-shirt is best but not on how best to contain a mortal epidemic. We have got to have the science, the logic, the strategy for containment, become consciously shared – just as it was so successfully with malaria, and as it was in the first wave.

Instead, Health Minister Jagutpal announces that they are steaming ahead with a partial lifting of lockdown as planned from tomorrow, 31st March. 

We will have to have our own means of containing the epidemic. I mean, we the people. 

The MSM-ex-MMM Government is about to take important decisions – probably going in the wrong direction, by persisting with the partial lifting, even as Covid cases soar. So, what about the Opposition? The parliamentary Opposition parties are never quite able to see the big picture. They would rather score a point than prevent national disaster. Sometimes, they are so desperate that they act as if disaster would give them a petty advantage, of the kind, “Sa? lepidemi la, li pu zwe dan nu faver, sa!” because the government would become more unpopular. The PMSD-MMM alliance (with former MSM blue-eyed boy and Minister close to the RSS in India, Nando Bodha, in it, but hidden by the MBC report on their joint press conference) is now separate from the Labour Party – even on issues in the National Assembly. The PMSD-MMM alliance has always been the most unstable one of all the partner-changing possibilities, and pasting Nando Bodha in, makes little difference. In Labour, Party Leader Ramgoolam is more interested in defeating Parliamentary Leader Boolell than in defeating the virus. He, Ramgoolam, was in any case the link-man with the “stolen election” mobilization, that has so recklessly tried to discredit the entire electoral process, including attacking the Electoral Commission, and that drew the whole of the Opposition – Parliamentary and Extra-Parliamentary (other than LALIT) into this dead-end futile, anti-democratic Trump-like struggle, which morphed later into the mass-following behind an ex-MSM agent, Bruneau Laurette by August at the end of the last lockdown and after the Wakashio wreck. This immense mass mobilization ended up essentially supporting capitalist demands (open the borders, and repeal the tax on bosses and high-earning private sector workers) thus attacking the MSM-ex-MMM Government from the right.

So, we cannot rely on Government, nor on the Parliamentary Opposition. So, we are going to have to do serious thinking and actions, based on building a program – not just on how to get beyond the epidemic, but how to create a proper economy that employs us all in good jobs on the other side. We have to create both movements.

Give a hand! Inform people you know on the need to be strict in preventing Covid spreading, on the need to get vaccinated – even if you’re scared of needles. And on the need to mobilize for jobs for all in a new economy around healthy food production on all the big sugar estates’ land and on all the 2.4 million square kilometer waters of Mauritius, linked with factories for preserving the food and marketing the surplus abroad. Nothing short of this will work. We, the people, will have to be in power. But, we will need to organize for that. 

If this had not been a day begun with alarming news of steeply rising new cases, I was going to tell you about how our dogs, the two dogs, Lock and Down (“Lok” and “Dawn” as I said before in Kreol) after destroying the hose-pipe out back, destroyed the one out front, and then by jumping on their own house situated on the back verandah, and then by eating at its plywood, they finally broke it down. When it was roofless, they looked forlorn. They couldn’t get to stand on top of it anymore. I had to lecture them as follows, having been trained in economics, “You guys can’t have your house and eat it!” 

When they exhaust themselves, they curl up in the two round plastic kivet I bought for them. Although they were the biggest I could find in Bambous just before lockdown, they are a bit too small for them. Anyway, they wind themselves each up into a tiny little circle, to sleep in there. Every time I try to sneak up on them to get a photo of this gorgeous sight – the one black, and the other white – at least one of them jumps up and out. That means we’ve got good guardians of the yard now. At least there’s that.

Another bit of good news, we have been getting water pressure in Ragoo Lane. Having running water is a blessing. Never get used to that. So, we don’t get the CWA lorry visiting anymore. But we still get the rubbish collecting women and men to cheer us all up. 

Lindsey Collen