COVID-19 in Mauritius: Pensions Reaching Older People’s Accounts With A Flexible Time To Shop

Apr 24, 2020 | All posts, Letters from..., Opinions and contributions

By Vijay Nairadoo

A first-person account: We are under lockdown and curfew during the night, starting yesterday. Many people, a minority though, are unruly going to the beach, to the market in large numbers, or to buy beers.

The situation is critical. The government has instituted a special communication cell, holding a press conference every day. The Prime Minister is in the forefront, together with the Minister of Health. Apart from imported infected cases, two medical practitioners have been contaminated locally, a dentist and a Consultant doctor. Both have been placed in quarantine, like all other cases.

More hospitals will be requisitioned for quarantine purposes. There are 36 confirmed cases, but more are in quarantine. As of now, there have been two deaths; one a Mauritian who came from England after a visit to his relatives and one, a Mauritian who had travelled from Belgium.

The Government offered to organise the return of hundreds of Mauritian students and other citizens from Europe, India and Dubai. The Dubai students were desperate without resources and appealed to the state for help to be repatriated home. I have yet to confirm when they will be returning but the government has agreed to offer them support. Everybody returning is sent directly to quarantine, their parents are not allowed even to meet with them at the airport.

The Government has a blanket message for the population: they warn everybody to stay home. There is a specific time from 09.00 a.m to 10.00 a.m for older people and the disabled to go out for shopping or stretching.

The Government is the only one providing official messages via press conferences which are directly disseminated through all radios, on social media and shown on TV bulletins every day. Social distancing, wearing masks and even gloves (though gloves much less) is in practice and this is what I do when I go to the shop or the bakery.

To minimise traffic, the public buses are only allowed to plough in one-hour intervals and there are very few passengers. There are police barricades to stop drivers and pedestrians. There is also an effective teaching programme, conducted by more than one doctor on TV and radio stations.  Older people are receiving their pension as usual, directly to their bank accounts. Those who go to collect them at the local post office go on specific days.

The Government has voted a stimulus package of 2.5D billion rupees for Small and Medium Enterprises. Whatever loans and bills we have to settle during the lockdown, we can do so afterwards without having to pay fines. Housing loans will be exempt from accumulated interests during this period.  Schools are closed and students are following on-line courses.

As a network member, I have dedicated my Monday press article to older persons on the challenges posed by the COVID19. I have also posted a video on the same subject appealing to civil society, the local Red Cross and the Blue Crescent to develop with the village, district and municipal councils a strategy to pay daily visits to older people living alone and those who can’t go out easily because of health problems.

This blog was originally published on HelpAge International and can be found here.

Vijay Nairadoo is the President of the Commission for the Rights of Older People of DIS-MOI, (DROITS HUMAINS OCEAN INDIEN), an association set up to help to promote a strong human rights culture amongst the populations of the South-West Indian Ocean region. They are mainly focused on Mauritius but are also expanding into the other small island nations of Comoros, Madagascar, Reunion and Seychelles