The tourist bosses and Government have now bumped into their own short-sightedness. The suffering this is causing is too great. So, though we do not like doing it, we in LALIT find we are obliged to say “I told you so”.
From the beginning of the epidemic, we have put forward logical demands – often signed up to by big unions and organizations in Common Declarations. The leitmotiv was around the following three points:
1. Recruitment and training of more hospital staff.
2. The need for a short-sharp very strict lockdown during the Second (and current) wave to completely contain the epidemic as we did in 2020 for a second time.*
3. For the Government from the very begining in March 2020 to force hotel bosses to pivot a proportion of their business and capital (including what Government was providing) to building up a full-scale food industry – for export in the region as well as for assuring productive employment and food security.
Two years have passed, and none of these were done. Which is why now, as France decrees Mauritius “rouge écarlate” thus banning tourism here, we are obliged to say “I told you so”. No severe lockdown to quell the epidemic was effected. Staff in hospitals have continued to suffer the brunt of the epidemic. And there is no large-scale food production as prices now rise. But most importantly, it is imperative, even for tourism to flourish but most importantly of all to save both lives and agony, to “contain” the epidemic as far as possible.
The Republic of Mauritius, during the first wave, was in the Top 10 of the world – all three inhabited islands being Covid Free. This was how on 14 February this year, Valentines’ Day, one whole year into the pandemic, Mauritius was poised to be a model of how to contain the Coronavirus epidemic. The Government had refused to submit to the tourism bosses’ constant demands to lift all restrictions. Vaccination had just begun for frontliners. But, the Government gave in to the short-sighted tourism bosses. And now the Government and the bosses find out they were wrong to persist with their impatience to get back to “profits as normal”.
It is worth going back and reading our post on our site on that very Valentines’ day to appreciate how well we all did, pulling together – guided as we had been by the trio of doctors: Gujadhur, Gaud and Musango. Remember also that for a year we had also been hearing the Opposition Parties and most of the press and radios running campaigns against these three doctors, denying this, questioning the official statistics, and generally crying “wolf” – happy to attack the MSM by any means – even if attacking the entire nation. We in LALIT did not do this. Instead, we warned of the dangers.
But look how well we judged the situation throughout. This is what we said on 10 March as the second wave began (Go to our site, it says “MORE NEWS”at the end of any news item, and then press the year you want):
“Unfortunately, the vaccines will not be able to be administered fast enough, in all likelihood. In Mauritius the masses of the people were so fantastic that the epidemic was completely quelled after a 72-day strict lockdown, brilliant individual contact tracing, interviews, tests and isolation, plus admission to hospital of all positive cases. This is an extreme regime. But it has meant that Mauritius has had normal-ish life from 26 April, 2020 until last week (March 2021), there have been no local cases of transmission at all. (One exception: a man returning from abroad, transmitted Covid to his son, having himself tested positive well over the 14 day usual maximum that is respected by the Quarantine protocol followed here.)
“Now, [10 March 2021] there is one whole cluster, plus four cases picked up in the flu-clinic screening, and not related to the cluster. Thus the lockdown.
“Today is total lockdown.
“... And we will be informed as to how the vaccine campaign will be organized. Hopefully in a way that does not help the virus spread.
“So, I have missed you, dear readers. My last lockdown blog was on 31 May last year. We were all rewarded with more-or-less normal life for a whole nine months. And now it’s isolation again. For us in little lanes in villages, or in working class housing estates, it is not so isolated. We chat in the road out front all day long – from a little distance. For many working class families, it is over-crowded indoors so it’s essential to be out on the road. But for people in the upper and middle classes, the isolation can be severe. And without domestic staff, there’s a lot of work they are not used to doing. So, the epidemic affects each of us, once again, both the same – and very differently. Rich or poor, looking after children cooped up all day is not easy. Even more difficult is being mentally ill in these lockdown conditions, and equally difficult is looking after people who are mentally ill. ...
“The 25 March seems a long way away. And we don’t know if it is going to be possible to lift the lockdown without letting the epidemic loose on the hospital staff of the country by that date. Already, just because of all the people in quarantine, all the vaccine centres and mobile centres, all the people tested positive and thus admitted to ENT, all the flu clinics in the hospitals, and all the special wards for suspected cases, nurses on ALL wards in all hospitals have over the past two days found themselves ALONE in charge of a ward all night long. It is already serious. LALIT warned of this weakness a year ago. We eventually got the nurses’ unions to take a stand for recruiting more staff. But this recruitment has been sluggish. The situation may get dire.”
The lockdown went on until 1 May. But the second wave continued to fester and spread. We went into a phase from then until the end of August 2021, during which time the epidemic was dampened down by means of “zones” being declared “red”. People were still admitted to hospital the minute they tested positive for much of that phase, and for the latter part of the phase put up in hotels for quarantine, if asymptomatic at Government expense. In there somewhere, we needed a proper lockdown, but the government was too weak to propose one on impatient tourism bosses, a hyped-up petty-bourgeoisie following any political current that raised its head, and with an opposition ready to criticize and capitalize upon literally anything, including a lock-down.
So, the epidemic has got worse and worse. The figures to watch are “admissions” and “discharges” from ENT and Other Hospitals. You get them every evening on the TV news. Except for one day for “Other Hospitals”, the numbers of admissions have constantly been higher than the discharges. So, the situation is extremely dangerous.
On 21 November, we wrote: “The time has come for the Government to impose a strict lockdown for a fortnight. Having missed a window of opportunity at the very beginning of the second wave, the Jugnauth Government must now at once consider a lockdown. It is well past the time when Government spokespersons can claim that things are under control. The situation is indeed critical. The spread is exponential, accelerated by the Delta variant. And will, as we have said a few days ago, worsen.”
Now, the Government is having to plead with France, literally beg that the “rouge écarlate” decree gets lifted even as hotel clients cancel their bookings, even while hospital staff are more and more exhausted, and while food prices rise.
Though El Figaro of L’Express in yesterday’s paper says the “rouge écarlate” declaration is because the Jugnauths have said they intend to reclaim Tromelin – he clearly thinks reclaiming Chagos was a mistake, calls it being “Don Quichotte”, we believe that the French read the admissions and discharges figures, like we do. Anyway, I quote this man in full, so readers can measure the true nature of his reactionary positions and his weird superciliousness so typical of the self-appointed colonizers’ own “chatwa” to use his vocabulary not ours: “C’est sans doute avec un grand plaisir que les Français ont assisté jusqu’ici au spectacle des Don Quichotte père et fils mauriciens partir en guerre contre les deux puissances anglo-saxonnes. Mais après la menace sur Tromelin, ils ont sans doute décidé d’inculquer une bonne leçon de réalisme géopolitique a PKJ”. A lesson with which he clearly agrees. His motto: Remain forever a bootlicker to the really powerful of this world.
*We have no idea what the African union means by Mauritius supposedly being in its “5th wave”, nor what their definition of a wave is or even if it is a typo.
Lindsey Collen for LALIT