How Mauritius became COVID-19 free

Posted on 19 May 2020

Mauritius is a tropical island paradise and a firm favourite travel destination for South Africans. While the island did not manage to avoid the COVID-19 pandemic entirely, it has had no new reported cases for 20 consecutive days.

Read: Mauritius declared virus-free

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted more than 20,000 cases and 1,139 deaths in the group age of over 60 years for the Indian Ocean island, but there have been only 332 positive cases and 10 deaths – of which only five directly related to the coronavirus – recorded for the entire population.

As of Sunday 17 May, no new cases have been recorded in Mauritius for 20 consecutive days. The reasons for this control of the pandemic are to be found in the responsiveness of the Mauritian authorities and the effectiveness of a primary health system well-seasoned in dealing with epidemics such as malaria or dengue.

To put the record straight, Mauritius did not wait for the WHO to declare the coronavirus as a pandemic before implementing precautionary and control measures.

– As of 23 January, passengers inbound from China are quarantined, a measure extended to other Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan shortly thereafter. On 02 February, there is an outright travel ban of these nationals.

– On 16 March, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announces the closure of the borders of Mauritius to the countries of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland from Wednesday, 18 March for an initial period of two weeks.

– On 19 March, with the announcement of the first three cases of the Covid-19 virus, the Prime Minister declares a state of national containment from the following day for 14 days. The entire economy is shut down except for essential services and a few grocery stores and pharmacies.

– Sanitary confinement is tightened three days later and then extended for the first time until 15 April, a second time till 04 May and finally a third time to 01 June, with a gradual opening of certain sectors of the economy from 15 May. The Prime Minister justifies this extension so that the stabilisation of the spread of the virus would not be annihilated by a second wave of the disease.

Mauritius’s success in controlling and stabilising the coronavirus can, therefore, be explained by the importance attached to this pandemic by the Mauritian authorities. The closure of the borders first for the Asian countries affected by Covid-19 and then for all other countries, and the quarantine of Mauritians and residents coming from abroad, demonstrates the will to prevent the coronavirus from reaching the coasts of Mauritius.

‘We also note a desire for transparency and continuous communication with daily press conferences of the Mauritius National Communication Committee of Covid-19 and regular interventions by the Prime Minister even when he himself was in self-isolation,’ authorities said in a statement. An application, beSafeMoris, was also launched for continuous and updated information on the situation and the necessary precautions to be taken.

In practice, the experience of local health services for diseases such as malaria has greatly helped in monitoring contact tracing of people found to be positive. In addition, the centralisation and creation of isolation units for people in need of intensive care has helped to minimise the spread of the virus. A policy also helped by the creation of quarantine centres to accommodate all returnees. It should be noted that there is a good synergy between the government and the private sector, including hotel groups that have made no less than eight hotels available to the government for quarantine purposes.

Finally, it should be added that Rodrigues Island, another part of the Mauritian Republic, located 600 km from Port-Louis, and also a popular tourist destination, recorded no cases of the virus, while the sanitary confinement there lasted only 14 days.

Even though no new cases have been detected for 20 days, vigilance has not been relaxed. Tests for the Covid-19 virus continue for all those who worked during the confinement period, including medical personnel, police and employees of grocery stores. To date, 87,177 tests of Covid-19 have been performed and 149 people are still in quarantine.


Image credit: Unsplash

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