« I think we’re thinking too defensively about what we should and could do against the coronavirus, » Fineberg told Live Science. « If it is a war, and I believe that’s a proper metaphor, then we should fight it like a war. That means we should fight to win to vanquish the foe, not to let it persist and hassle us for an indefinite period. (i) » – Dr. Harvey Fineberg, Former President of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine
In Mauritius we sometimes feel like we are playing “catch-up” with the rest of the world.
This is true when it comes to many things, such as movies, technology, trends, and even sometimes fashion. And we can live with that; these little things won’t kill us.
However, the one thing we should not, ever, be playing catch-up with is our health (and public safety). Unfortunately, that’s precisely what will happen if we lift the lockdown too soon in Mauritius.
If we lift the lockdown too early, we will be playing Russian roulette with our health, our public safety, and with the lives of immeasurable amounts of people.
Over the past weeks, the Mauritian Government and its spokespersons have spoken at great length on a terminology that is now already becoming fast outdated, the now famous mantra we have been hearing incessantly worldwide: “flatten the curve.”
To “flatten the curve” is essentially the strategy around which the whole protocol of lockdown has revolved; it has been the policy goal for confinement, worldwide. The principles of the “flatten the curve” doctrine lie in the strategy of engaging in extensive virus transmission mitigation through rigorous social distancing policies. Hence, the “lockdown.” The main objective here is that of ensuring that the pace at which transmission of the virus through out a community is reduced drastically–thereby safeguarding healthcare systems from being overwhelmed and overrun in the face of this worldwide pandemic. It is the curve of the infection rate that is therefore “flattened.”
The science behind this strategy is sound, and has worked up to an extent—but it has its limits, as experts around the world today are starting to realize. Flattening the curve is a defensive move, and is constrained to mainly mitigation—mitigation for our healthcare systems until a permanent solution is found. (ii)
The main problem with this is that a solution for coronavirus is not coming for the foreseeable future, with estimates for a viable vaccine ranging between one and two years away. That means an extremely long period of tentative steps for countries and their economies around the globe. Situations whereby countries could potentially lift “lockdown” protocols one day, and find that the virus has come back for a second wave of attack weeks and months later. This scenario is already currently being witnessed in countries that had thought they had already won the war against coronavirus, such as Japan, only to find out cruelly later that this is not the case. A trajectory, experts agree, that is far from the ideal situation for any government, economy, or country around the world.
This newly arising conundrum is forcing scientists and policy-makers alike to re-think the policy end goal for the “lockdown” protocol. Calls are coming to explore the possibility that perhaps the “lockdown” protocol should not merely serve as a containment mitigation strategy: but instead be waged with a war-like intensity for a longer period of time than initially envisioned.
As the calls to re-assess the “lockdown” protocol grow louder and louder—they have also turned in another direction: the “weaponizing” of current “lockdown” protocols. Instead of enacting lockdown protocols for only days and weeks: experts are now contemplating prolonging these strategies for months instead. The end goal is shifting from that of “flattening the curve” to that of “crushing the curve.” Essentially, they seek to use the “lockdown” protocols in order to eradicate the coronavirus completely, instead of just mitigating her transmission throughout society. (iii)
With so many scientists and experts rapidly turning their attention to this new possible solution, the popular terminology of “flatten the curve” is swiftly becoming outdated, as calls to “Crush the curve” increase in ampler.
Like the growing number of experts worldwide, I too believe that we should aim to “crush the curve (iv) ,” and in my very first article in the newspaper dealing with the coronavirus a few weeks back entitled, “War Time Measures: Mauritius v/s The Coronavirus,” I outlined an exact and precise strategy for how we could do that in Mauritius (link to article in endnotes – v).
In short, I believe that we should go in the complete opposite direction as suggested, in substance, by the Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth: that of gradual de-confinement. I believe we cannot and should not lift our foot off the gas—we should push forward harder, better, stronger, and faster with the lockdown protocols; eradicating the coronavirus from our shores.
A pertinent question when considering our options in Mauritius is, “Why move towards a “gradual de-confinement” now, when even if things in Mauritius returned to normal tomorrow, one of the main pillars of our economy, tourism, stands no chance of re-booting any time soon?” We must understand: tourists are not coming to Mauritius now, nor will they be coming here any time soon. The tourism industry, worldwide, has more than just stalled: it is dead in the water. Experts globally are already making extremely dismal forecasts, with talk of a 2022 comeback for the industry.
Therefore, we should tread carefully. It is not the time to pump resources into a forever-waning industry; Mauritius needs to take this time to take care of her people–for that is what will enable us to re-build our nation. It does not work the other way around. In part inspired by what we see now around the world in countries like Japan, who have witnessed a resurgence of the coronavirus—events that most are blaming on the fact that these countries may have lifted the lockdown too soon, or simply did not lockdown “hard enough” to begin with: I think that Mauritius is uniquely positioned to enact a “hard total lockdown” protocol. This entails shifting to a literal food rationing system similar to that of during WW1 & WW2 (and of during Mauritius’ fight against malaria in the 1950’s), and stopping the deadly coronavirus progression in Mauritius dead in her tracks–once and for all (see graphical illustration – vi).
No half-measures, or tentative steps: we go, as the expression in the US says: “balls to the wall.” We wage, in essence, all out war.
Across the ocean, as Japan grapples with the unfortunate and unintended consequences of her actions, nations are now very seriously re-thinking their “confinement exit strategies” as well. Governments are learning from the lessons that are being borne all around us: and the emerging trend is that they are adjusting their game plans accordingly, in an all out effort to ensure that they do not suffer the same fate as countries like Japan.
With these trends, calls to “crush the curve” are gaining momentum worldwide.
And, this is a trend Mauritius cannot afford to play catch-up with: our Government and decision-makers need to pay close attention to what the experts are saying.
Mauritius must head the warnings of those gone before us, such as Japan, and take into account not only the human cost, but the economic toll, that comes with merely “flattening the curve” and then having to start all over again from the beginning a few weeks (vi) or months later.
The reality that Mauritius faces today is that while countries like Japan may have the financial clout to weather a second, or even a third, storm of coronavirus due to their missteps—we do not have that luxury.
The simple truth is one that we all know all to well now in Mauritius:
We cannot eat the Metro “Express”, the stadium at Côte-d’Or, nor the Safe City for breakfast.
We cannot eat them for lunch.
The sad and ugly truth, is, that we cannot eat any of them at all.
In this grim context, and as winter approaches imminently, in order to not only survive, but, in order to eventually thrive again—and to rise metaphorically from ashes as the mystical Phoenix– I believe, Mauritius, that we must crush the curve.
ii.Most experts agree that a permanent solution to the coronavirus will come only in the form of a vaccine.
iv.In Mauritius, can do this in 8-10 weeks of a “hard total lockdown”, perhaps sooner if combined with the right testing and quarantining methods as outlined by Dr Harvey Fineberg
v.https://www.lemauricien.com/article/war-time-measures-mauritius-v-s-the-coronavirus/ vi.http://joannenova.com.au/2020/03/stop-with-the-fatalism-dont-flatten-it-crush-the-curve-on-coronavirus/ vii.https://www.google.mu/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/as-social-distancing-shows-signs-of-working-whats-next-crush-the-curve-experts-say/2020/04/08/3c720e06-7923-11ea-b6ff-597f170df8f8_story.html%3foutputType=amp