By Nita Chicooree-MercierEpidemiologists and researchers have been saying that the coronavirus is here to stay until a proper vaccine is developed to neutralize it. In the meantime, the world will have to learn to live with it – the more so since it may be carried by people travelling from one country to another, and there is not to this day any certainty about the reliability of tests even if they are made compulsory for all citizens of a country. As if that were not enough, there is also the Kawasaki-like inflammatory syndrome linked to coronavirus, which almost exclusively affects children, leaving epidemiologists baffled about how to handle children who do not show any symptoms. However, there is no ground to create a psychosis among parents for the moment.
“The airport is bracing for reopening. Good news if sanitary precautions are maintained. And so much the better if passengers have to go through a test two weeks before embarking, which sounds a gigantic task to put into practice but it can be helpful to everyone of us who are bound to encounter others in our social interactions. Hotels cannot afford to go empty for months on end; neither can taxi drivers, food and beverage companies, and a myriad of sectors remain idle for long. Even if it is going to be a slow pick-up, a demand for selective countries under certain conditions can be envisaged…”
It is also not clear why the authorities have taken to postpone the reopening of schools to August, when their parents will have to resume work at the beginning of June. Why August, not mid-June or July if the quarantine period for returning Mauritians is going to be over in three weeks’ time? What is the rationale to delay classes is not explained, nor why SC and HSC classes cannot re-start earlier. More importantly, in whose care will parents leave their children in June and July?
What is certain is that we will have to navigate uncertain waters for probably more than a year. By now, the habit of wearing masks, using sanitizers and maintaining social distancing has settled in and should not be an issue in case of a second wave of the disease. Currently, there is more safety in small countries than bigger ones for there is lesser risk of transmission. Accordingly, the easing of restrictions can be adjusted to local realities, rather than necessarily follow what is being adopted elsewhere. Judging from information given by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare there has been a surge in domestic violence, protection orders and children put in shelters. This collateral social damage reflects the stress caused by dwindling incomes, uncertainty and worry over the future, pushing a number of male citizens on edge. Lack of professional and physical activity is experienced differently for several reasons. Idleness and inactivity may engender violence when men lack other resources which can help them keep some degree of sanity. It unfolds a partial view of the extent of disruption a sanitary crisis can cause in society.
This is not the time for discussing the causes of male violence, but there is an increasing awareness of the havoc caused by the imbalance engendered by patriarchal societies across the world over centuries. And certainly things have to change in coming years to set a right balance of power. It all boils down to a power play, to who displays more power than the other. As to physical power, women have to learn basic techniques of self-defense to overpower their male partners or other males who seek to mess with them. Climate change, damages done to Planet Earth, economic growth policies, wars and the status of women, etc., are more interconnected than is generally believed.
Pandemics and wars in the past proved to have a high nuisance value of widespread disruption which could topple governments, devastate economies and break up societies, but they could also open new ways of reconsidering the idea of social classes, job categories, and the status of men and women. They shake up societies and create new awareness of pressing issues.
Paradoxically islands are geographically confined in the middle of vast oceans but heavily depend on tourism, trade and exchanges of all kinds with other countries to keep their economies afloat. No island is an island in itself. It has to open up for free movement of people, services and goods. All countries have shrunk into small islands with closed frontiers around them. Right now, the world is in the same boat, and it is not going to be a smooth sailing for some time on.
The airport is bracing for reopening. Good news if sanitary precautions are maintained. And so much the better if passengers have to go through a test two weeks before embarking, which sounds a gigantic task to put into practice but it can be helpful to everyone of us who are bound to encounter others in our social interactions.
Hotels cannot afford to go empty for months on end; neither can taxi drivers, food and beverage companies, and a myriad of sectors remain idle for long. Even if it is going to be a slow pick-up, a demand for selective countries under certain conditions can be envisaged.
Are there too many hotels in the island? For the past twenty years successive governments pledged to stop delivering permission for further construction. But they went on giving the green light to diverse business companies eager to take their share in the hotel industry.
Is the sky clearing up for Air Mauritius and all-weather friend Air France? It may take time for the Chinese to straighten things up before boarding Air Mauritius; Asian countries do not go crazy over the charm of small islands. Indians are scanning the horizon for new opportunities that are seen coming in to boost the economy and may be willing to take advantage thereof. Fairly well-off Westerners always have a soft heart for the exotic charm of tropical islands – Covid-19 or not. Without harbouring puerile hopes, there may be reasons to expect things to pick up.
* Published in print edition on 19 May 2020