Clouding the real debate

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As former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam finally makes his way to India, where we hope and pray he shakes off the nasty virus, it is perhaps apt to move to the front burner a debate that the government has been covering with its usual lack of candour, combined with a big dose of crude propaganda.

That debate has been clouded by those who have suddenly discovered capitalism. Or should I say re-discovered it as the same debate raged on when then Leader of the Opposition Paul Bérenger went to France for treatment. And a new discovery was made again when the Ah Tecks tried to fly a family member – who sadly didn’t make it in the end – to Australia after he contracted Covid. 

This discourse boils down to whether or not people in a capitalist country are allowed to do what they want with their own money. That people who go to private clinics, drive luxurious cars and send their children to foreign universities should be participating in this debate is rather incongruous. 

The conversation we should be having is about our preparedness to deal with the Covid situation and the number of deaths being silenced. 

Yesterday, three of our compatriots tiptoed out of this world to go and join many others in the now overcrowded cemeteries reserved for those succumbing to the virus. The tragic stories coming from inside the ENT hospital and other centres are enough to give us sleepless nights: a saturated service, lack of care, lack of training, negligence…

What we have seen from the government so far is a series of knee-jerk reactions. Had it had a long-term plan, many lives would arguably have been saved. 

First, before announcing the opening of borders, private clinics should have been asked to get ready to deal with Covid cases. The clinics would have had time to set up facilities, prepare extra beds and ventilators, import and train staff and be able to take the pressure off our public hospitals. Instead, we learn by accident, after Navin Ramgoolam’s admission to Wellkin that clinics had been given permission at the 11th hour to take on Covid patients! Anyone who has visited the small makeshift container converted to a Covid centre at Wellkin will realise that the facilities are far from being adequate for the current demand, let alone for the worsening situation. 

Secondly, the authorities should have already increased the number of beds in hospitals reserved for Covid patients. As for ventilators, please don’t get me started. Pack and Blister took more money than ever deserved, took back the faulty ventilators ordered in the circumstances and, last we heard, Minister Jagutpal was waiting for them to sue us so we can fight our case in court. Under other circumstances, I would have invited you to share in the joke!

Besides preparedness, the population should be aware of what is going on, so they act accordingly. Instead, the authorities continue to thump their chest about how well we have been able to deal with the Covid situation and the MBC has been bombarding us with full features on how great our health system is. Is it any wonder that our compatriots are going on about their business and cases are hitting the roof? Thanks to that exceptionalism, we now rank first in Africa in the increase of Covid cases! 

We need beds, functioning ventilators, oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders, PPEs, more dedicated health staff, appropriate drugs, more trained personnel and we need these urgently. Above all, we need transparency and clear information, along with some measures to slow down the spread. 

For the rest, I am frankly in favour of anything that takes the pressure off our public health system. So I won’t deny anyone private care here or elsewhere if they can afford it. It is saving lives that we should be concerned with. 

What should be allowed or not boils down to two questions: is it harming anyone and is there a cost for the country? The rest is like skipping meals and thinking you are helping the starving population in the world. Rather pointless, isn’t it? 

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