Basically, the Government lost an opportunity at the very beginning of the second wave for one more, final, tough lock-down. That could have changed the path of the epidemic, preventing so relatively widespread a second wave.
But, the MSM Government did not do this.
That is the Jugnauth Government’s mistake. That is its responsibility.
The Government was unable to do this for the economic reasons it pleaded but that was short-term thinking at its worst. Where there is Covid circulating, tourists won’t come. That is the lesson of the CDC Level 4 warning, unreasonable as it was relative to the American tourist visiting (see our article “U.S. Warnings re Travel to Mauritius”).
The Government argued that the reason it was avoiding doing a lock-down was for economic reasons, but the main problem for the Government was, in fact, political.
The MSM Government has never been able to establish itself, relative to vociferous parts of the Opposition and relative to the mainstream Press and private radios, as a legitimate government. There was a three-way split in the 2019 elections, so only just over one-third of people voted for the Government, though it has a comfortable majority of seats. Then there was the dangerous right-wing movement over “eleksyon trike”. The very same forces challenging on fabricated grounds “the stolen elections”, just as in the USA, were also chivvying up an anti-vaccination movement. And though these extreme-right-wing movements have so far met with failure – the series of Court Cases over electoral mismanagement, fraud, etc. have, for a start, all begun to collapse while people’s confidence in electoral procedures has remained relatively high; and the anti-vaccination movement never really got off the ground amongst the broad masses, who have confidence, for long-term cultural reasons, in vaccination campaigns and in all public health measures in general – they have, nevertheless, contributed to making the Government unable to control the second wave. The MSM could not risk a harsh lock-down that was needed at the beginning of the second wave – just in case this provoked a union in the “panye krab” of the Labour Party, Bruneau Laurette, Ashok Subron, Roshi Badhain, MMM, PMSD, Rama Valayden, etc.
Now given that this moment has passed, is over and done with, given that the Government is responsible for having missed the chance for us all to quell the second wave like we did the first, where do we go from here? What do we need to do?
First, we must bear in mind that it is a fact that, with the level of vaccinations giving protection from illness, as many as 98% of Covid positive people have no Covid symptoms at all. It used to be only some 85% before the vaccination campaign. This means we are nearing the point where Covid has to be managed from now on as an endemic disease. It has, after over 18 months, finally begun to be been tamed into being more like a bad flu. But that will depend upon continued vaccination – we’ve got a long way to go – continued social-distancing, mask-wearing, and monitoring the situation. So, what should we be doing now?
Here are some ideas:
1. Encourage the 200,000 or so adults who are not yet vaccinated to go ahead and get vaccinated now. We have all paved the way for them. The risks, or minimum nature of the risks, are now, nearly one year on, well known. Inform people you know at work, in the neighbourhood, in your associations and unions, in the family, of where and on what days and at what times vaccines are still being administered, and of the value to society of their getting vaccinated. Help those who are scared of needles to get over their fears, encourage those with pre-existing conditions to go see the doctors at the vaccination centres for proper advice, and generally reassure people who hesitate. Get your club, association, union to take a resolution in favour of universal vaccination. Work so that your whole street, where you live, is vaccinated. Workers should encourage vaccination from everyone on your site.
2. Encourage those now turning 18 to go get the jabs.
3. Prepare all the 12-17 year-olds you know for the Pfizer vaccination campaign due to start in a few weeks, and inform them that this will be a contribution they can make to society to stop the spread. Remind them that, in countries abroad, children and their parents, have volunteered to be the “kobay” so that today the youngsters can safely get the jab and thus protect the whole of society.
4. When your neighbours or friends are self-isolating, buy some vegetables every few days and hang them up on their gate. Tell them to phone if they need anything else to be brought to them, or done for them (paying an electricity bill, drawing money – you can give a bridging loan maybe, or whatever). Before it comes to this, bring up the conversation about this kind of neighbourhood support that can be organized from beforehand. Contact all friends who you know live alone, to make specific plans for if they have to self-isolate. In other words, as usual, it is age-old co-operation at the grass-roots level that makes society work. Let’s keep it working.
5. Prepare everyone in the family and neighbourhood for other emergency help. It is important to discuss these situations before they happen. In the case of a little baby with enteritis, for example, if its mother tests positive for Covid and can’t stay with the baby in the hospital, this means a woman or girl in the family’s circle who knows the baby needs to perhaps prepare to offer to be with the baby in hospital? Difficult times demand new commitments.
6. Meanwhile wear a mask, keep windows open – summer is almost here – sit on verandahs and under trees rather than indoors, wash hands regularly, keep social-distancing measures in place, avoid as many weddings and funerals as possible and, if you are organizing one, keep it a small affair. And if you can, the time has come to acquire a pair of N-95 masks – so that when you are in contact with someone who has tested positive, or even with someone who is close to someone positive – you can shift to N-95 masks for a week or two.
7. Keep in touch with friends who work as nurses, nurses’ assistants, orderlies, doctors, ambulance drivers – to find out what degree of stress they are working under, so that you are informed, and also so that you can give them the moral support they need.
8. Remember this is a new virus. Nobody knew what it meant. As we learn about it, and as more and more of us get vaccinated and this slows the spread and lowers the rate of illness, we need to change our approach. We need to follow, as the epidemic progresses and as our knowledge progresses. We need to listen to the Authorities, as they spell out their approach, and not just fly into an anti-government position, making ourselves look silly. Here are some of the changes at present: Now the ENT hospital is being converted to the “ICU” for Covid. Now, there will be Covid wards (isolated from the rest of the hospital) in all existing hospitals. Now self-isolation for asymptomatic patients will, for the first time, become the rule instead of government-paid quarantine in hotels. Now, once the degree of infection-from-dead-bodies has been calculated, burials and cremations can be performed by private funeral companies, once their staff are given basic hygiene training for preventing spread of the viral infection. All this, however, remember, still puts enormous strain on the health services. For example, the whole of ENT is still a “squatter” at Candos because its entire building has been taken over for the Covid ICU. We must remember this. All the wards that, in each hospital, are converted to Covid wards, are so many wards fewer for the usual care and treatment. And ALL the staff at vaccination centres, at the airport, doing tests, at ENT, on new isolation wards, are staff taken away from, removed from the normal work rosters. In addition, more than any other work sector, staff are often tested positive for Covid and have to self-isolate, removing further staff from the hospitals and dispensaries. Instead of making fools of ourselves on private radios by getting all het up, it is time to absorb all these new facts, new realities, new strategies in the face of Covid.
9. Learn to distinguish between reliable sources of information and unreliable. This means keeping up with things. For example, on “cause of death”; go and read the WHO guidelines to doctors on how to fill in deaths from Covid, and with Covid. Also, death is caused by or not caused by Covid depending on symptoms (remember lots of cases of Covid are asymptomatic, and lots of people die in all times, even without Covid, of coronary illness, strokes, renal failure, and cancer and will continue dying from these causes!) or on CT scan results for lung damage, and in any case, you can keep two lists, if you want to, one of deaths with Covid on the certificate anywhere, and deaths caused by Covid. Also check on numbers of hospital deaths in 2018, 2019, 2020 (during Covid epidemic) and 2021 (still during epidemic) – as a baseline.
10. Keep calm at all times.
At the same time, we do need to prepare demands, political demands, for the future, like:
a) All private clinic services, should, during an epidemic, be put at the disposal of the universal, free health care system. In the long run, all health services need to be united into one system, run on a de-centralized basis – not unlike the NHS in Britain, when it was its best before Thatcherism began to dismantle it.
b) All vaccine research must be put in the public domain, and removed from patent protection – world-wide.
c) All pharmaceutical companies must produce useful medicine and be subject to strict Government controls on profits, corrupt practices relative to doctors, and so on.
d) The Government must recruit and train more nursing staff, and more records staff, immediately.
e) The public health (biro saniter) must be strengthened to deal better, in the short, medium and long run with any need to do contact-tracing.
We need to be mulling over these kinds of demands. Help with thinking them through. This is what the moment in history demands of us.
Lindsey Collen, for LALIT.