HOW DID THE AFRICAN COUNTRY OF MAURITIUS BEAT COVID-19?

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[Mauritius\COVID-19]
As early as January, Mauritius had begun to restrict flights coming in from China. Flights from Europe were soon added to that list, and screening at airports became mandatory for all incoming passengers.
Photo: YouTube

The African country of Mauritius has been successful in its battle with COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 18, a Wednesday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced that three people in Mauritius had contracted COVID-19. Two cases were from a cruise ship and one was a person who had flown in from the United Kingdom. Grimly, the prime minister told the country: “We are in a state of emergency.”

Exactly eight weeks later — May 13, another Wednesday — Jugnauth’s administration made a very different announcement. After a total of 332 cases and 10 deaths, Mauritius was now COVID-19 free. “Mauritius now has zero active cases,” said the country’s health minister. “We have won the battle … but we have not yet won the war.”

This is how they did it.

Island’s response to COVID-19

When the scale of the pandemic became clear, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated Mauritius as a high-risk country. Not only did the island have extensive links with hotspots in Europe and Asia — tourism is the foundation of its economy — but it is also the 10th most densely-populated country in the world. These are fertile conditions for the spread of the coronavirus.

As early as January, Mauritius had begun to restrict flights coming in from China. Flights from Europe were soon added to that list, and screening at airports became mandatory for all incoming passengers. COVID-19 arrived anyway.

On the day that the first three cases were confirmed, Jugnauth set up a high-level ministerial coronavirus committee. This was the driving force behind the country’s response, and included the ministers of health, finance, tourism, infrastructure and commerce. It was chaired personally by the prime minister. The committee met every day, including weekends, and sometimes meetings would go on for three hours. Initially the meetings were face to face — later, when one of the committee members became infected, they started meeting online.

“Having a prime minister meeting and chairing the meeting every day, it’s a commitment that I have never seen in any other country,” said Dr. Laurent Musango, who sat on the committee.

Musango, a Rwandan physician with extensive public health experience, is the WHO’s representative in Mauritius. He played a key role in advising Jugnauth. Almost every day, the prime minister would call him or send him WhatsApp messages, asking for WHO guidelines on specific issues. “It’s the opposite to what you had in Burundi,” said Musango, referring to that country’s expulsion of the WHO’s advisory team.

The committee quickly took some difficult decisions. The most significant was to immediately implement a national lockdown. All flights and ships were locked down. So were schools, offices and public transport. A strict curfew was imposed. Mass gatherings such as funerals and weddings were banned. Police were deployed to implement these measures, and handed out hefty fines to anyone in contravention.

Many of these measures are still in place, to prevent another outbreak of the disease.

To read the rest of this story log on to https://mg-co-za.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/mg.co.za/coronavirus-essentials/...

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