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Mauritius struggles with Covid explosion ahead of tourism reopening

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Mauritius’ hospitals are overwhelmed, ventilators are hard to find, and there is no longer enough room at the main cemetery to accommodate Covid victims.

With just three weeks to go before opening its doors wide to international travellers at the start of the peak tourist season, the paradise island nation is experiencing a devastating spike in Coronavirus infections and deaths.

In just two months, cases have jumped over five-fold to more than 12,600 as of Friday, the largest rise across Africa in this period, according to data compiled by AFP.

Since the pandemic started, Mauritius has recorded 1,005 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, far higher than the continent’s average of 598.

The crisis is now so acute that 74-year-old former prime minister Navin Ramgoolam has flown to India for Covid treatment, and the opposition leader has discussed his struggle to find a bed for an ailing friend.

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“People do not realise how bad the situation is,” said one nurse at a Covid treatment centre, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of possible reprisals.

“We are already above capacity”.

In July, the idyllic Indian Ocean holiday destination, renowned for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, partly reopened to vaccinated international visitors.

But they had to remain in “resort bubbles” for 14 days before being allowed to venture further afield, provided they had a negative PCR test.

The government reduced that timeframe to seven days this month ahead of a full reopening planned for October 1, when tourists will be free to explore the island as long as they test negative up to 72 hours before arrival.

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