Covid-19 resurgence with Delta variant?

We would better leave the medical and specialist community rather than politicians to guide the population

 By Jan Arden

Around early August this year I shared the following personal view in a piece sub-titled ‘Get Vaccinated!’ — ‘When the balance of personal freedoms is up against such an alarming national threat, the sense of collective good, backed by scientific fact rather than speculation, should prevail over personal concerns and beliefs.’ That appeal was to get innoculated with the second dose and stick to the indispensable sanitary protocols all the while. We can feel relieved that the vaccination drive has proceeded apace and about 65% of the population have received a double dose of whichever vaccine had been purchased by the authorities and those figures should reach 80% at the earliest.

Africa’s Covid threat hits ‘new level’ as Delta variant spreads. Pic – Al Jazeera

Caught in a deadly race to meet the target for opening of frontiers and the resumption of activities in the long-suffering tourism and hospitality sector, the authorities could neither be seen as sluggish in the vaccination drive nor as taking unnecessary risks or cutting corners in the responsible handling of the public health of the population. In the process, the health authorities, already under flak for a variety of reasons since early 2020, have faced further credibility tests for downplaying Covid infection rates by drastically reducing PCR tests and ignoring results of Rapid Antigen tests.

The massaging of sad Covid morbidity and mortality statistics, the variant spread information which has to be extracted like sore teeth, the state of the specialised ENT hospital and its facilities, the stretched and stressed frontline medical personnel, the lack of oxygen ventilators or support equipment, none have shone a better light on that critical interface for a disoriented population already fatigued by the pandemic.

Without yielding to an alarmist temptation and as laymen, many have felt that what should be certainly more worrying for the health authorities or the wider population is the rapid spread of the far more infectious delta variant (and its possible derivatives). The far more infective and potent variant seems alarmingly prone to have debilitating effects on younger and healthier segments of the population than the vulnerable groups, that by the way, should continue to receive special attention.

We have read or heard stories of several deaths of persons below 40 and without co-morbidities. Quite a number of us may have known personally or heard of bewildering cases of doubly vaccinated friends, who found themselves suddenly under surveillance in Covid ICU units of regional hospitals and dreading to be driven to what sounds to them as the «mouroir», our flagship specialised ENT treatment centre.

But we have also heard of cases where an ordinary patient from a regional ICU centre upon reaching the ENT, was actually relieved by the level, quality of care and attention provided to him or her at the ENT by its knowledgeable inhouse medical specialists, health care nursing staff and assistants.

We will therefore abstain from comment but trust that the promised new initiatives announced by the Health Minister on Friday last do serve to improve those aspects, including dignified and less inhumane mortuary procedures, that need to be addressed. Whatever the case, in the patriotic spirit that has always characterised this paper, we continue to advise everybody to ignore the tourists going about without masks and to continue limiting their outings to public spaces and gatherings, and where unavoidable, to adhere strictly with safe distancing, frequent sanitized hand wash and the constant wearing of masks.

Today, nobody can say, look I have no fever, no coughing and sneezing, no symptoms and therefore I am safe; treat everyone with adequate caution as a potential virus carrier who can give you, even if you are doubly vaccinated, the most traumatising moments of your life. Neither temple congregations, nor burial or wedding ceremonies, nor attendance at official inaugurations, or at sermons from the Mount, nor even joining in a political smala for a couple of hours is ever going to provide you or your close ones extra protection and they would most certainly qualify as anti-patriotic under current conditions.

Which brings us to the advisability and necessity of a booster jab that extends the protection period, or a third shot of your vaccine as propounded by the Ministry of Health and even the Prime Minister himself. And we would have gone along with that recommendation heartily until we realised that this is still a matter being debated both inside WHO and in all developed countries.

In mid-September, a third dose was not actually being recommended by the WHO pandemic specialists and by mid-October, as in several developed countries (e.g. Canada, EU countries) the third dose should only be considered for those persons with weaker immune systems. ‘At this time, people with a severely weakened immune system will need this one extra dose to help improve protection,’ as expressed simply by the Scottish pandemic centre and that sums up the general medical consensus.

Mauritius has always claimed paying much if not exclusive heed to WHO recommendations and therefore why are we pressing with generalised administration of a third dose, while several proven drugs with proven effectiveness in therapeutic support of affected patients, seem still unavailable or late in order, is somewhat baffling. We recall that at an international level, WHO has also, besides medical reasons,  queried the haste of some developed countries and big Pharma companies to press for lucrative third shots, while many countries in the developing world are still struggling to get their first dose, still less their second. None of us will be safe until we are collectively safe, they seem to suggest.

We would therefore prefer to leave the medical and specialist community rather than politicians to guide the population on this issue, since every shot or dose seems to carry also extra risks, even if those remain low compared to potential benefits. It might even be considered more patriotic to leave the medical and scientific community unfettered in their analysis of latest data and expert outside opinion and institutions so as to provide their informed opinion and advice.

* Published in print edition on 2 November 2021

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