Open Letter to the Government
We are 43 Mauritians stranded in Rome, Italy, since 22 March 2020, and we would like to address this open letter to the Government through the Foreign Affairs Minister to draw attention to our current plight. We are extremely disappointed with the manner in which our situation has been handled, or rather mishandled, by the authorities; it almost amounts to our being denied our inalienable right of entry in our own country.
The reply of the Foreign Affairs minister to the PQ addressed by Hon Shakeel Mohamed on 5 May 2020 bears testimony to the indifference of the authorities to our plight. In most countries, foreign nationals have been repatriated to their native homelands thanks to the efficient, pre-emptive and diligent agency of their respective foreign affairs missions posted there. We are the only foreign nationals left ‘imprisoned’, so to say, in IH Roma hotel, Rome.
We understand that the minister would have stated in his response to the PQ that:
(i) at the time there was a flight in Paris outbound for Mauritius, we had not yet received our Covid-19 test results, and that would be the reason why we could not board the said flight; that is incorrect because our tests were then ready, our embassy in Paris was fully aware of this fact and the flight list, at the outset, never featured our names;
(ii) as regards our return to Mauritius being dependent on the availability of flights, we understand that Costa Croiciere would have informed, in writing, and on numerous occasions our embassy in Paris, that it would bear all expenses related to our return to Mauritius, including the provision of a charter flight;
(iv) it would not be superfluous to state that most of us constitute a long-retired workforce which has given sweat and soul to our country. What is most depressing and unacceptable is that one of us, when requesting for an update, got copiously insulted by a cadre of our embassy in Paris who, it would seem, did not want to be unnecessarily bothered by our ordeal;
(v) the information concerning when our last tests were done is also not correct; they do not date back to 7 April 2020, as stated, since we underwent confirmation tests on 25 April 2020, and the results thereof were duly transmitted to our embassy in Paris. Costa Croiciere immediately initiated action on 30 April 2020 to repatriate all Mauritians on a special charter flight at its own cost; we understand that the Mauritian authorities would have never responded to that initiative and the entire operation was halted.
Moreover it would seem that the authorities harbour an over-exaggerated fear that we will trigger a second wave of the infection once we are back in the country. To that we will say that we have been tested negative twice, and we are willing to go for quarantine, again, once we are back. And still, we are being told that we do not qualify for repatriation since there is a dearth of quarantine space and management back home; so all of sudden we are turned into the sacrificial lamb because a country that prides itself as the star and key of the Indian Ocean does not have adequate quarantine capacity to accommodate its citizens. Are we to expect any denouement in the coming days, or would that be, once again, wishful thinking, or asking too much?
With love and socially-distanced hugs
Mauritian Ghosts Stranded in Rome
Prepare for the future now
I am an expat, one of a very large number of the diaspora.
I keep in touch with events on the island but not the parliamentary stuff. My interest is in other productive sectors, for example tourism. It is now obvious that concentrating for years on rich external tourists has not paid off. All the big hotels that occupy large swathes of the best beaches only attracted the rich and the famous. It is only recently with the advent of the boutique hotels, private rentals, AirBnB, B&Bs, etc., that the island has opened up a bit more. A lot has to do with expats telling their friends in the UK and elsewhere what a good time they had in Mauritius. The photos would have worked too.
So now, with the lockdown and no flights, what to do?
Well as soon as restrictions are loosened, hotels can offer special weekend deals as well as mid-week breaks to the local population. Prices would need to be competitive enough to attract locals. Free drinks, water sports, children’s clubs, babysitting, etc., will attract many people. Cheap 3-course lunches with minimal choices at low prices will also bring in a varied clientele. There would need to be extensive advertising. Some boutique hotels could offer 3-course takeaway lunches or dinner with matching drinks.
With regard to the national airline, it needs to be slimmed down drastically and to only offer flights to profitable routes. Offer a very high standard of service at reasonable prices. Appoint a CEO with proven experience; salary and bonuses to be taken only if targets are reached. No more nepotism. All ground and cabin staff to be among the best. Salaries should be commensurate with experience and delivery of targets.
Plan now for package holidays with hotels in Mauritius and abroad. Make prices competitive. Throw in free car hire for part or the whole of the holiday, a couple of hours of fishing offshore, etc.
Employ a good PR company to start assembling booklets and other publicity literature to be ready when flights resume. Distribute at the appropriate time. Flood the market ahead of time.
Tidy up places like La Louise. Get old and dangerous evil smelling, fuming diesel vehicles off the roads.
Look westwards; that’s where the tourists will come from.
All passengers to be tested (with immediate result) when booking a flight. Test again before check in. No need to quarantine on arrival in Mauritius. Test again every few days to reassure everybody. Test before boarding and at destination. Testing to be free of charge.
Covid-19 and Frugal Living
Such a tiny thing and such a big impact. It was unimaginable until it happened. A virus that cannot survive on its own but considered as a living entity, has taken over the world with breathtaking speed. Thereupon, the world has got aggressively involved in the implementation of suppression strategies to contain the transmission of this new virus, the Covid-19, from one person to another: enforcing significant lockdowns, disciplined physical distancing, personal hygiene, contact tracing, testing, quarantine and isolation. All the foregoing activities have a common goal: to stop the contagion from infecting people, killing them and causing immense collateral damages to the economy, personal and family lives and livelihood.
The confinement has changed people’s way of living all over the world. Either they are doing it voluntarily or are forced to do so by the prevailing circumstances. The consumption of goods and services has significantly changed. There is frugal living. It is not deprivation but a choice between the necessary and the superfluous. People are satisfying themselves with the minimum quantity and objective needs of food, clothing and shelter. It is not a sign of despair or a call to tighten belts. It is an instinctive shift to prioritize and do things that are most important. Frugality brings about a balance between needs and resources. You may already be running your life along these lines: setting a food budget, creating meal plans and listing your groceries accordingly, preparing your food, – using leftovers, making your bread, cakes and cookies, growing your own herbs and eating at home amongst other things. It implies modest consumption and simplicity in personal lifestyle to face the Mahamari… the pandemic.
There is, however, the fear that the transmission of the virus can quickly rebound if we are not cautious enough and relax or remove the measures and interventions. The lockdown has slowed down the progression of the disease but it has in no way eradicated it. We have to maintain a significant portion of the suppression measures for a longer period of time to keep the virus away. These, among other things have been rightly referred to as the “new normal”.
We had better resign ourselves and adapt to the new normal and adopt a frugal way of living as the journey promises to be quite long and resources limited for getting to a vaccine and/or therapeutic drugs that will combat this tiny virus.
To be honest we all have to admit that the government is taking the necessary initiatives to contain the pandemic. Some may say that action could have been taken well before, thus preventing an outbreak here, but let’s leave that to the past.
What bothers me is that we are giving peanuts to the needy people and throwing away millions to the rich industrialists. Whatever happened to the hundreds of millions of rupees made as profit by the tourism and cane industries? Not a word has been said of the millions paid up as dividends to the shareholders, but why do we hear cries of wolf! when the situation gets bad?
How can we give away taxpayer’s money to those who are against socialism in favour of the needy but find socialism in favour of the rich acceptable? Even if the taxpayer’s money is given away, the government should trade its assistance for shares in these companies, or the bailout funds should be given as loans.
* Published in print edition on 8 May 2020