We are right now, right here, at the worst point ever in the 20-month Covid epidemic.
And things will get worse.
How much worse after the first two weeks of the tighter restrictions will depend upon us all – as well as on the Government. But the Government is at the end of its political capacity to control the spread of the pandemic: it lacks the powers of mobilization necessary. So, we, peoples’ organizations in Mauritius, must replace the State in implementing the measures necessary to save us all.
Ragoo Lane is very quiet today. There is hardly any movement. Neither mini-buses, nor motorbikes. Not even pedestrians. Only two mango thieves hurried past with their bags of half-green mangoes, all the dogs in the Lane barking like mad, telling the thieves to shelter at home. The dogs seem to know about the need to stay in.
And thus this Blog. And the proposal in it for a “voluntary stay-in”.
Two years ago, the title of this article, “Blog 1 – Of Covid Control Voluntary Stay-In” would have been unfathomable. Even now, what does it mean?
Let’s look at the context, for a start let’s look at the first word. On this site, we have had two series of blogs for the Covid pandemic lockdowns, each one numbered “Day 1”, “Day 2” and so on. They were every single day. The first one in 2020 lasted for 72 whole days of “lockdown”, the second one in 2021 for 52 whole days. So, a team of six of us would prepare the bilingual blog every day. It was different from a political article in that I would collect ideas from people, do the draft – linking the political and the personal, what with us all being forced apart – and five others would fact-check, suggest changes, proof-read, translate and re-check, and upload on our site and Facebook. Members of LALIT and others would send me ideas and requests and other feed-back every day for future blogs. It was a collective labour of love. And we will do it again now.
This time we have decided that it will not necessarily be every day, so will be numbered not “Day 1”, “Day 2”, etc. but “Blog 1”, “Blog 2” and so on. It is a voluntary blog this time. But, it is still in the context of “Covid control” as it was during the two previous government-mandated lockdowns. We ask you, as readers, to contribute by doing two things – emailing a copy to one or two contacts each time, and then following this up with a phone call to discuss the content. And then you can phone anyone you know in LALIT, and send suggestions and feed-back through them.
Now, with nearly two years’ experience of the new Coronavirus – we now all know more about how to control Covid than we did during the first and even second blogs. We now have nearly 90% of adults who have stepped up to take the vaccination across the country, and this has saved our society from being totally overrun by the epidemic right now, once everyone has returned to work and other activities. However, there is a big “but”. There are still 90,000 eligible people not yet vaccinated – mainly for daft reasons people cling to erroneously, and are now clinging to because they have so long clung to them – and they, being unvaccinated, then spread the virus at 9 times the rate of the vaccinated. Meanwhile we are now landed with the Delta Variant (that’s another word that has been popularized over the pandemic, “variant”) that has speeded up the rate of spread of Covid even as vaccination levels have slowed it down. Right now, hospitals are stretched. Health workers are exhausted. Patients are suffering. Many are dying.
We are right now, I repeat, at the worst point we have ever been in.
And things will get worse.
And the MSM-led Government has announced that its margin for strict lock-downs has disappeared: it can no longer, it claims, afford the Wage Assistance and Income Support programs. The State may be forced to resort to a total lockdown, however, if the situation continues to get worse. But, we should not let it get worse. That means too much unnecessary suffering and death.
So, in the meantime, we in LALIT and amongst friends, are starting from today with a call for “Covid control voluntary stay-ins”. Our definition of “stay-in” is the opposite of being “locked in”, in that it is voluntary, but it means positively avoiding meeting others in person. We are proposing this because it is necessary to slow the speed of the spread right away. This means staying home as much as possible, thus limiting possibility for the virus to spread; we will just go to work and come back again; if the bus or metro are crowded, we will get up earlier and go to work earlier and walk the last leg of our trip; and we will walk a few bus-stops before coming home on later transport when it is less crowded; where we can we will walk rather than hop on to transport; this helps us and helps everyone else; when we go out on to the road or anywhere else for exercise, we choose a time when there are less people out; we will go shopping on our “alphabet days” only. I’ll be going out, only when we really need supplies, and only on Mondays and Thursdays, as much as possible; in LALIT we have pivoted all our meetings on to Zoom, and smaller branch meetings on to WhatsApp, to include anyone who can’t get Zoom on their mobile phones; two associations I am in are holding meetings on Zoom, too; those of us who can work from home, are doing so; any planned weddings and funerals should consider voluntarily restricting the numbers to 10 rather than 50. The situation is too grave not to.
So, we call on everyone in the Press, Radio and TV, everyone in all other organizations and political parties to continue encouraging, or begin to encourage, everyone eligible to step up and get vaccinated – in the interests of us all, and in a show of respect for health workers who bear the brunt of peoples’ refusal to get vaccinated. We were impressed that the MBC TV has responded to our criticism – despite their 4 minute tirade last week against this very criticism – and during the main news formally encouraged vaccination. Dr. Guness was invited on to the 7:30 evening news and gave just the kind of encouragement that everyone needs to step up and get vaccinated. He also gave handy tips on breathing exercises for those of us who have to isolate at home because of becoming Covid positive. MBC will need to keep up this kind of explanation and motivation every day. We all need to encourage people to voluntarily “stay in” – make it a voluntary movement. Mauritians have a deep traditional knowledge of the importance of this kind of public health action.
The Press should begin to do the same as the MBC finally did last night. They might find they win back readership that has been repulsed by the snarky tone about the pandemic and by the hateful attitude towards health care workers. They might propose ways that we can all really slow the spread, really flatten the curve. And everyone who phones in to Radio programs can also encourage listeners to get vaccinated, to stay in as much as possible, and to walk part of their way to and from work. Some listeners have taken the cue from us and begun to tell the truth about how well the health care staff are caring for people.
for LALIT, 16 November, 2021