Mauritius PM shares island’s success story in fighting pandemic at WISH 2020 summit

A strong public healthcare infrastructure and the development of a multi-layered response driven by scientific and medical data lie at the core of every successful effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, Hon. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, told participants at the World Innovation Summit for Health.

Speaking at the closing day of the fifth edition of Qatar Foundation’s WISH 2020 summit, Jugnauth shared with attendees how the small but connected island nation of Mauritius succeeded in containing the virus.

Mauritius, which hosts over 1.3 million tourists annually and has a relatively ageing population with a high percentage of diabetes and cardiovascular morbidity, scored a perfect 100 on the Oxford University Stringency Index that tracks government policy and action with regard to COVID-19.

“Considering our circumstances, our response has been heralded as one of the most efficient in the world as we managed to contain, in a matter of six weeks, the virus which reached our shores on the 18th of March,” the prime minister noted.

Mauritius’ success rested on a multi-layered response that featured the implementation of strict protocols with regard to sanitary measures at entry points and a very strict policy of PCR testing, quarantine, isolation, and treatment as part of the government’s containment strategy, the prime minister explained.

Nevertheless, the unprecedented scope and magnitude of pandemic, continued to pose challenges for Mauritius, the prime minister added, referring to the impact of the pandemic on the island’s economy “with the drying up of international visitor numbers, in terms of both business and tourism.”

To mitigate this inevitable slowdown, Mauritius said his government is providing significant economic, income and job support to affected sectors of the economy to ensure that the country weathers these challenging times. 

“As a centrepiece of our own recovery policy, my Government is committed to injecting significant national resources which will total almost 30% of the country’s GDP, to support and build the economic recovery of Mauritius,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also laid bare the inequalities that exist among nations, the prime minister emphasized, urging fair and equal access to safe, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines.

“Such an access is key to change the course of the pandemic and help countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts, move toward a resilient recovery,” he said, calling for global leadership and a coordinated response to ensure that any approved vaccine is distributed equitably. 

“We commend here the World Health Organization for coordinating global efforts, in collaboration with GAVI, to develop a vaccine, through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility,” he said.

Despite its limited resources, Jugnauth said Mauritius has pre-ordered vaccines, under the COVAX initiative, for 20 percent of the population, focused on vulnerable and front-line staff.

The prime minister ended his remarks on a positive note, highlighting a growing interest from young people to continue their education, training and careers in medicine and public health as well as STEM subjects. 

“If one thing positive can come out from 2020 – it is that adversity builds commitment, and hope brings resilience.  This is a war that we, and specially our youth, will not forget and will grow from,” he said.

WISH is Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative. For more information on WISH, visit: wish.org.qa