Hospitals are overwhelmed, ventilators are difficult to find and there is no longer enough space at the main cemetery for COVID-19 victims in Mauritius.
Barely three weeks before it fully opens its doors to international travelers at the start of the peak tourist season, the island nation is struggling with an alarming explosion in COVID-19 infections and deaths.
In just two months, cases have jumped more than fivefold to more than 12,600 as of Friday, by far the largest increase across Africa during this period, data compiled by Agence France-Presse showed.
Since the pandemic started, Mauritius has recorded 1,005 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, far higher than the continent’s average of 598.
The crisis has become so acute that 74-year-old former Mauritian prime minister Navin Ramgoolam has flown to India for COVID-19 treatment, and the opposition leader has discussed his struggle to find a bed for an ailing friend.
“People do not realize how bad the situation is,” said one nurse at a COVID-19 treatment center, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of possible reprisals. “We are already above capacity.”
In July, the Indian Ocean holiday destination, renowned for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, partly reopened to vaccinated international visitors.
However, they had to remain in “resort bubbles” for 14 days before being allowed to venture further afield, provided they had a negative polymerase chain reaction test.
The government this month reduced that timeframe to seven days ahead of a full reopening planned for Oct. 1, when tourists would be free to explore the island as long as they test negative up to 72 hours before arrival.
“The situation is worsening,” one doctor said on condition of anonymity, adding that medical professionals had been instructed not to talk about the crisis.
“The priority of the government is to ensure a smooth opening of the borders on Oct. 1,” the doctor said.
The government has not given any explanation for the surge, but local media reports speak of people ignoring social distancing and not following precautions after getting inoculated.
The authorities had ordered people in some sectors to have COVID-19 vaccines, or risk hefty fines and jail terms of up to five years.
As of Saturday, 61 percent of the population was fully vaccinated, but the virus situation remains bleak.
Bernard, a worker at Bigara Cemetery on the main island, said that the area reserved for COVID-19 victims is full.
The dead are being buried at another graveyard in the north of the island, but locals are furious, saying that COVID-19 victims are being buried too close to their homes.
L’Express newspaper reported that police had to be summoned last week when some youths began throwing stones at health workers who were burying the dead at Bois-Marchand Cemetery.
The authorities have been slow to paint a clear picture of the pandemic death toll, and announced a sharp revision to official figures on Friday, from 34 to 89.
The Mauritian Ministry of Health explained its initial calculations by saying that most of the 89 fatalities were due to comorbidities and not directly caused by COVID-19.
Locals are conflicted about the relaxation of restrictions, with tourism contributing 25 percent of the archipelago’s GDP prior to the pandemic.
“We had closed the country, but, despite this, the number of cases exploded,” said taxi driver Paul Pierre, who said that the prospect of a tourist surge made him “shudder.”
Hotel receptionist Diana Mootoosamy echoed his fears, saying that “suddenly we find ourselves without a safety net.”
“By welcoming tourists, are we going to attract foreign exchange or [SARS-CoV-2] variants?” she asked.
Others have said that the economy, which shrank by 15 percent during the past fiscal year, desperately needs a boost.
“My restaurant has been empty since March 2020. If the tourists don’t come back, I’ll have to put the key under the doormat,” restaurateur John Beeharry said.
The country’s healthcare system is struggling to cope.
Mauritian Leader of the Opposition Xavier Duval rang alarm bells over his “traumatic” hunt earlier this month for a hospital bed with a ventilator for a close friend.
With family members in tears, Duval tried several private clinics and the main hospital with no luck, before one center agreed to admit his friend — but only for 48 hours.
“All this indicates that the system is overwhelmed,” he said, calling the situation “alarming.”
“I’m afraid Mauritius will come to a stage where we might need to decide who will get the air supply and who will have to die,” he said.
Choosing a full-fledged confrontation with the US due to the loss of a megacontract for submarines for Australia, France is making a risky bet and other nations are not rushing to its defense. After Australia renounced its deal for conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ones, France took the extraordinary step of pulling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. Bertrand Badie, an international relations professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, said France had put itself in a position where it can only appear to be backing down or losing face once its ambassador returns to the US,
Could delivering COVID-19 immunity directly to the nose — the area of the body via which it is mostly transmitted — help conquer the pandemic? The WHO says clinical trials are under way to evaluate eight nasal spray vaccines that target COVID-19. The most advanced effort so far by China’s Xiamen University, the University of Hong Kong and Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy has completed phase 2 trials. “When the virus infects someone, it usually gets in through the nose,” said researcher Nathalie Mielcarek, who is working with the Lille Pasteur Institute to develop a nasal spray vaccine against whooping cough. “The
PLANNING TO REOPEN: Amid 1,607 new COVID-19 cases, the country is making a shift away from lockdowns, acknowledging that outbreaks will happen Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases yesterday as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus. Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, recorded 507 cases as Premier Daniel Andrews said a weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 percent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, whether or not there are new cases. Andrews said the state might reach that vaccination threshold around Oct. 26. About 43 percent of Victorians have been fully vaccinated, 46 percent nationwide. “We will do so cautiously, but make no mistake, we are opening this place
OLD WAYS: The Ministry of Women’s Affairs also seems to have closed, as its sign was replaced with one for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice The Taliban have effectively banned girls from secondary education in Afghanistan, by ordering high schools to reopen only for boys. Girls were not mentioned in Friday’s announcement, which means boys would be back at their desks next week after a one-month hiatus, while girls would still be stuck at home. The Taliban Ministry of Education said that secondary-school classes for boys in grades 7 to 12 would resume yesterday, the start of the Afghan week. “All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions,” the statement said. The future of girls and female teachers, stuck at home since the Taliban took