A Covid-19 laboratory, currently being set up at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR) International Airport to effect PCR tests on all arriving passengers, will be operational in a few weeks. This measure will increase testing capacity and expedite the PCR testing process.
The Prime Minister, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, made this announcement, today, at the National Assembly, in Port Louis. He was replying to a Parliamentary Question pertaining to the reopening of Mauritius's borders.
Since 19 March 2020, Mr Jugnauth recalled that the country's borders were completely closed, while the airport remained operational for cargo flights including airfreight of medical supplies and equipment, medical evacuation and repatriation purposes. Mauritius, he emphasised, is now COVID-safe with regard to local cases following stringent actions taken by the Government. There have been no COVID-19 infection cases in the community since 26 April 2020, he indicated.
For him, the current border restrictions and the mandatory 14-day quarantine for passengers returning from overseas are among the vitally important protection measures Government has taken to minimise the risk of COVID-19 virus proliferation in Mauritius. These measures have also prevented the disease from spreading exponentially, he stated.
The Prime Minister underlined that the prevention of a second wave of the COVID-19 is highly dependent on the strategy to be adopted for the re-opening of the country's borders. According to him, the needs and benefits of travel must be weighed against the risks associated with the spread and a resurgence of cases which would necessitate a reintroduction of confinement.
Moreover, he underpinned the necessity to adopt a cautionary as well as a phased and coordinated approach before proceeding with the full re-opening of the borders given the prevailing uncertainty regarding the virus, its evolution and the absence of a vaccine. He also pointed out that the upsurge of infections and signs of a second wave of the pandemic in countries which have eased border restrictions are on the increase worldwide.
As regards the protocols for the screening of passengers upon arrival on the Mauritian territory, the Prime Minister highlighted that existing control and strict sanitary measures put in place at points of entry have to be reinforced. Prevention measures such as social distancing, wearing of masks and hand hygiene have to be maintained, he emphasised.
In addition, Mr Jugnauth dwelt on other Governmental proactive actions with regards to prevention, including: elaboration of necessary preparedness plans; strengthening of existing sanitary protocols at both the port and airport; increasing the number of quarantine centres; and elaboration of sanitary protocol for the resumption of airport activities by the airport authorities together with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and airlines.
Hence, depending on how successful Mauritius and other countries are in managing the pandemic, and once all relevant sanitary protocols are finalised and the laboratory is operational, consideration would be given to the appropriate time for the re-opening of the borders and operation of scheduled commercial flights, stressed the Prime Minister.