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Mauritius getting ready for post-COVID-19 recovery

While the total number of coronavirus cases globally has crossed 4 million, Mauritius is one of the few countries in the world that have succeeded in providing a timely response to the outbreak.

Even before the onset of COVID-19, a comprehensive package of prevention and preparedness measures were put in place in the country. Following confirmation of the first cases more than 50 days ago, Mauritius went into national lockdown on 20 March 2020 to mitigate this challenging and unprecedented health crisis. The three successive extensions of shutdown since that date have been key to limiting the spread of the virus and avoiding the risk of a second wave of the epidemic.

Mauritius now COVID-free

To date, our small island has been more proactive and effective than a number of more advanced countries in terms of curbing the spread of this public health threat. As a result of the stringent measures put in place, no new coronavirus infections have been reported since 27 April and Mauritius has no active cases anymore.

A total of 332 positive cases have been recorded, which means less than 0,03% of the population has been affected. Among these, 322 patients have been successfully treated, resulting in a recovery rate of around 97%.

What is even more encouraging is that we are ranked among the top 20 countries in the world testing for the virus in terms of per capita, according to the Worldometers website. EndCoronavirus, an international volunteer coalition of over 4,000 scientists, other experts and individuals, also lists Mauritius among some 30 countries that are doing best in beating coronavirus.

Gradual resumption of economic activity

In light of such results, the lifting of confinement measures has been announced for 1 June, with the easing of restrictions from 15 May. “We look forward to the reignition of the national economy on June 1, and we anticipate that by then, Mauritius will be a COVID-free country, something that will augur well for our international reputation,” says the CEO of the Mauritian conglomerate ENL, Hector Espitalier-Noël in an article published by the local daily, Le Mauricien.

Mauritius will resume economic activity in phases in a bid to prevent a new outbreak from occurring. Out of precaution, stringent health measures will be taken. A work access permit will also be issued to employees who need to travel to their workplace. A speedy application and approval procedure has been set up to ensure delivery within 24 hours.

Solidarity and collective resolve

In an effort to minimise risk during these challenging times, Business Mauritius will implement a protocol on post-curfew work arrangements for the private sector, which has already been cleared with the Government. As for the public sector, a comprehensive circular has been issued to all ministries and departments.

The introduction of new legislations is also envisaged to enhance responses to infectious diseases, the testing capacity has been increased and five centres are being set up in regional hospitals to specially cater for COVID-19 patients.

Public health remains top priority in the context of the battle against coronavirus. The road to economic recovery will be filled with twists and turns. However, the Mauritian people have stood in solidarity to combat COVID-19 throughout the last few weeks and we are confident that our continued collective resolve will help us get through these challenging times.

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COVID-19: Heritage Villas Valriche homeowners join the Solidarity Drive

Being in confinement doesn’t mean that life must come to a standstill. The Heritage Villas Valriche homeowner community is demonstrating resourcefulness and solidarity towards each other as well as towards needy people in the region in the face of the current health crisis – in strict compliance with national health recommendations.

The people of the Heritage Villas Valriche estate in Bel Ombre have been showing their strong sense of community in recent weeks amid the national coronavirus lockdown in Mauritius.

The homeowners’ facilities management entity has been very active with a number of essential service personnel remaining on duty throughout the confinement period under the national work access permit conditions. Apart from the friendly security staff on duty 24/7, other emergency personnel have been active, ensuring 100% availability of essential services such as electricity, potable water, irrigation water and fibre-to-the-home internet. The landscaping provider, Agrïa has also managed to keep the vegetation under lockdown in this lush tropical environment.

The estate’s homeowners are contributing their share of the effort through mutual assistance and solidarity. Some of them have given neighbours the keys to their villas to keep an eye on their homes in order to ensure they are properly aired and cared for while they are away. At the same time, they have offered to help out with everyday products they have in stock, such as laundry and cleaning products as well as small appliances.

Shopping for groceries has become more of a challenge than normal in this lockdown period. Villa owners have therefore set up “grouped” deliveries to avoid service providers having to make multiple trips, making life easier for everyone. Donning masks and gloves, homeowners are only a short golf cart ride away from their order pick-up point, where they are kindly assisted by dedicated and friendly security staff.

In these times of crisis, everyone is helping out where they can. Some check with neighbours whether they need anything prior to a trip to the supermarket. The more active villa owners are volunteering assistance to the elderly or to those living on their own. They are also lending a hand with maintenance of the Heritage Golf Club course. The recently set up neighbourhood Facebook and WhatsApp groups are proving efficient tools to facilitate communication around the estate, whether to share good deals or to ask for help.

Although the sports centre has temporarily been closed to comply with lockdown and health measures, residents are able to breathe and enjoy nature since less than 15% of the estate area is and ever will be built-up – and with villas only – providing a wonderful sense of space. Adding the golf course area to the mix further enhances this sensation and makes social distancing an easy way of life.

The Heritage Villas Valriche community members are not only taking care of their immediate neighbours, but are also providing assistance to less fortunate people in nearby villages. In response to a call from the NGO, Caritas Ile Maurice and in coordination with the Rogers Vivacis initiatives, homeowners have contributed to and raised funds for the distribution of food supplies to 86 families at risk during this period of confinement.

In these tough times, it is vital for all of us to pull together to make a difference and these initiatives have reinforced the strong ambience of the “Heritage Villas Valriche Family”!

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Mauritius takes a responsible approach towards COVID-19

While the first cases of COVID-19 in the country were confirmed on Wednesday 18 March 2020, Mauritius had already started taking steps to prepare for the pandemic.

Mauritius has started to monitor the situation closely shortly after China first alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 31 December 2019 of an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the city of Wuhan. As part of the response, travel restrictions started being imposed from 23 January 2020. At the time, the country had not yet recorded a single confirmed case of the virus.

In the face of the threat posed by the pandemic, a number of precautionary steps were promptly implemented to contain, delay and mitigate any outbreak, including strict surveillance, detection and prevention both at the airport and port. Three quarantine centres were also set up, an awareness campaign was launched and coordinated action was undertaken with WHO to better monitor the situation.

A series of measures were taken to prepare for the coronavirus, including the development of a response strategy in line with WHO recommendations and consultations with relevant authorities and stakeholders. With the COVID-19 quickly escalating into a global pandemic with severe repercussions, the first related death was reported on 21 March, three days after the virus was officially detected in the country.

Scaled-up response

Mauritius stepped up its response accordingly to protect the health of the population. Some Rs 208 million have been made available to the Ministry of Health and Wellness for the acquisition of new medical equipment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The country’s testing capacity has also been increased the donation of 20,000 tests, 1,000 protective gear and 100,000 masks by the Jack Ma Foundation in late March and 10,000 tests are expected to arrive from Europe in April 2020. In addition, the Mauritian embassy in China is preparing an order for even more tests and protective gear, which will be flown into the country during the course of April.

As a preventive measure, the country’s borders had already been closed to travellers – including cruise ship passengers in the port – on 18 March and all public and private educational institutions across the country were shut down the following day. A curfew order was issued on 23 March before going on a total lockdown, except for essential services, 24 hours later.

That same day, all supermarkets, shops and bakeries were temporarily closed till 31 March. Following the extension of the curfew order, the restrictions on shopping were relaxed on 2 April with twice-weekly access given as per alphabetical order of family name to every household under strict sanitary conditions. An online shopping platform has also been rolled out on Friday 27 March by the local authorities in partnership with the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).

Support to the most deprived

From early into the crisis, Mauritius has taken a set of measures to support households and communities. These include the distribution of 35,000 food packs to vulnerable people, a Wage Support Scheme, support to informal workers and communities and a Special Assistance Plan by the Bank of Mauritius for families having contracted a housing loan.

To provide relief to the most deprived of our citizens, a COVID-19 Solidarity Fund has been established. The President of the Republic and a number of parliamentarians have already pledged to contribute 10% of their salary for a year to the Fund. The Mauritian people are also encouraged to play their part and as at mid April 2020, the total funds collected had reached more than Rs 60 million.

There have also been repeated calls to be vigilant and observe all precautionary measures. A task force is chaired by the Prime Minister daily and a National Communication Committee has been formed to provide updates on the situation to the population, which is also regularly advised to stay home and avoid any social contact which is not of urgent necessity. Other communication tools include a 24/7 centralised emergency hotline (8924), the official Facebook page of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, a dedicated website and beSafeMoris, a mobile application developed by Mauritius Telecom.

COVID-19 is more than just a health crisis. With the support of various airlines, embassies and private operators like BlueSky, the government had to organise the repatriation of some foreign nationals to their home countries as well as returning Mauritian nationals to the island following the lockdown. The last Air Mauritius flight took off on 28 March and all flights, save for flights for Rodrigues and exceptional repatriation flights, have been suspended until 30 April.

Financial support plan

Anticipating the economic impact of the novel coronavirus, especially on the tourism, trade, construction, and manufacturing sectors, the Government has announced a 10% reduction in its overall spending. Additionally, an initial financial support plan to the tune of Rs 9 billion has been approved to mitigate the adverse impacts of the crisis. An Implementation and Monitoring Committee comprising public and private sector representatives will ensure its effective implementation.

Various fiscal and monetary measures are being made available to economic operators at the macroeconomic and cross-sectoral level. All work permits expiring this year will be automatically extended to 31 December 2021. A Work at Home Scheme will be promoted and an e-Government Digital Bureau will be set up to minimise human contact.

On the tourism front, the passenger fee on air tickets will be suspended up to 31 July 2020 for visitors from Reunion, Australia, and South Africa.

With regard to the exports sector, the Freight Rebate Scheme will be extended for exports to South Africa and Tamatave and that the Speed-to-Market Scheme will also include exports of manufactured goods to Africa, Japan, Australia, Canada and the Middle East up to 31 December 2020. Moreover, an amount of Rs 100 million has been earmarked to encourage local production of food crops.

In an effort to contain the impact of the virus, special arrangements have also been made for students and motor vehicle owners.

Solidarity at all levels

Although the full impacts of the pandemic are still unknown, they will manifest in different ways. In the meantime, people and organisations from all fields and all levels are coming together to get through the crisis and prepare for an eventual recovery.

Public health and the economy, especially our tourism industry, commodity prices, trade, investment and finance flows are likely to take a heavy blow. Joining in the national effort to tackle the crisis, Business Mauritius therefore continues to work closely on different front with the authorities and other relevant stakeholders and has set up six response committees on health, economic recovery, cross-border logistics, food, necessary supplies and energy, human resources as well as communication, with the participation of both the ENL and Rogers Groups.

With the temporary shutting down of hotels, most operators in the sector, including Veranda Hospitality & Leisure and Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels have allowed the use of their properties for quarantine purposes. A number of initiatives have been put in place on various scales, such as the setting up of #myENL COVID-19 Solidarity Fund by the ENL Group, leveraging the expertise of specialists from various industries, like Plastinax Austral and FedEx/TNT, the distribution of food supplies to the needy by ENL Foundation and the Moka’mwad collective, fundraisers like the “Ansam anou ed nou bann vwazin!” (Together, let’s lend a hand to our neighbours) campaign, to name but a few.

Most importantly, the country continues to closely monitor the situation and is leaving no stone unturned in order to take such additional measures as may be necessary in the light of the evolution of the disease.