Sunday, May 31, 2020
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Covid-19 dominates parliamentary debates

The National Assembly resumed today under strict sanitary conditions. Wearing of a face mask is compulsory and social distancing is applied to seating. Members have been requested to make statements from a sitting position.

The assembly proceedings were marked by an incident whereby Hon Paul Bérenger was ordered out by the speaker following a remark by him. Other members of the opposition did a walk-out in support of Bérenger. Parliament has been adjourned to 13 May 2020.

 

We reproduce below some replies to Parliamentary Questions.  It must be noted that these replies may not verbatim reproductions of those given by the Hon Prime Minister in the National Assembly.

Private Notice Question

To ask the Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of defence and Home Affairs, External Communications, Minister of Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity–

Whether, in regard to the proposed easing of confinement restrictions with effect from 15 May 2020, he will state if necessary measures are being taken to -,

  • control the risks of a second wave of covid-19 infections, including by strengthening our health care preparedness and capabilities;
  • extend additional and temporary financial support to household most affected by the lockdown of economic activities throughout the easing up phase; and
  • ensure that all rules and guidelines are put in place in relation to the proposed phased resumption of economic activities after consultations with businesses, trade unions and the civil society?

REPLY

Mr Speaker, Sir,

It is with a sense of relief that I answer this Private Notice Question as facts and figures testify that our nation has till now successfully managed to weather the storm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As I announced in my statement to the House on 20 March 2020, the Government has been acting with much foresight in the management of Covid-19 crisis and had already taken a number of preventive measures as from 07 January 2020.

As the House is aware, as soon as the first case of Covid-19 was detected on 18 March 2020 in Mauritius a sanitary confinement was imposed as from 20 March 2020.  A Curfew Order was issued on 22 March 2020 which was subsequently extended on three occasions as it was considered necessary and expedient for the purposes of preventing the spread of coronavirus and to protect the health of the population.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

A confinement is an important and powerful component of control of the outbreak of infectious diseases. The timely and effective implementation of this powerful measure, as part of a comprehensive package of public health response and containment measures, has contributed significantly to contain the spread of the disease in our country. As a matter of fact, for the last 8 consecutive days, there have been no new reported cases of Covid-19 in Mauritius.  Moreover, we have presently only three active cases.

Mr Speaker Sir

Imposing or lifting a lockdown are measures which are directly related to public health. Any decision in relation thereto should therefore be based on scientific evidence and guidelines.

In regard to the Government’s Strategy and Action Plan for easing some of the curfew restrictions which were announced on Friday last, I must say that it is a plan that has been carefully thought out, based on scientific advice and is precisely geared towards preventing a resurgence of the epidemic.

In fact, at its meeting held on 10 April 2020, Cabinet agreed to the setting up of a National Steering Committee, under my chair, to develop a post-curfew strategy and an action plan for a phased resumption of economic and other activities. The Committee was composed of several senior Ministers and officials.

In addition, four Sub-committees were set up to make appropriate recommendations to the National Steering Committee.

The Government’s Strategy and Action Plan hinges around one central concern, that is, the continued protection of public health, which remains its topmost priority.  The Government intends, by all means, to avoid the risk of a possible resurgence with a second wave of COVID-19 infection. Any such resurgence would not only jeopardise the gains achieved so far in terms of containment of the disease but will also put a heavy strain on our health services and the economy in general. Hence, the decision of Government for a phased approach for the resumption of economic and other activities.

The main features of the Government strategy to prevent a second wave include the following:

  • all secondary, primary and pre-primary schools in Mauritius to resume in August 2020 in a phased and staggered manner;
  • wearing of masks and observing social distancing in all public places,
  • ban on all public gathering;
  • cinema halls, markets, malls and casinos to remain closed;
  • access to horse racing and public beaches will not be allowed;
  • maintaining present restrictions on passenger flights and cruise ships;
  • shielding our elderly and vulnerable people;
  • a phased resumption of activities in the public and private sector under strict sanitary rules; and
  • encouraging work from home and flexible working hours.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

In regard to strengthening our health care preparedness and capabilities the Government has already taken a number of measures in terms of procurement of essential medical supplies and equipment and implementation of a number of protocols and training of staff.  Moreover, Government is envisaging the introduction of the following new legislation to enhance our preparedness and response to infectious diseases:

  • a Covid-19 Bill;
  • a new Quarantine Bill to replace the present one which dates back to 1954; and
  • a new Public Health Act to replace the present one which dates back to 1925.

Moreover, in line with our strategy to enhance our preparedness, we have increased our testing capacity to face any resurgence.  Private Health Institutions have also been approached in case of workload saturation at our Central Health Laboratory.

Our Health Services are already prepared to face any resurgence of the epidemic.  Accordingly in pursuance of our strategy we are doing the following:

  • we are increasing our testing capacity of PCR test (1000 tests per day and stock of 100,000 tests);
  • we are carrying out Rapid Antigen test to know the dynamic of the epidemy (stock of 76,000 tests);
  • contact tracing by well trained teams is being maintained;
  • five Covid Testing Centres in the five regional hospitals are being set up;
  • Treatment of patients at ENT Hospitals – 20 ICUs and if need be at Souillac Hospital – 10 ICUs as well as in other hospitals. A total of 60 ICUs and 300 beds are available for other Covid patients.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

In regard to part (b) of the Question, Government has set up the Self-Employed Assistance Scheme to provide direct support of Rs 5,100 per month to all those who are in business, or a tradesperson operating in the informal sector, e.g. a mason, a cabinet maker, a plumber, a hairdresser and an artist is entitled to join the assistance scheme.

I am informed that in respect of the Self-Employed Assistance Scheme, the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) has, as at 04 May 2020:

  • received 253,102 applications;
  • approved 189,476 applications;
  • paid for the period 16 March 2020 to 15 April 2020 to177,714 self-employed representing a disbursement of Rs 906 million;
  • for the period 16 April 2020 to 30 April 2020 an amount of Rs 2,550 has been paid to 138,670 self-employed, representing disbursement of Rs 354 million.

Moreover, a Wage Assistance Scheme has also been set up to provide financial support to employees of the private sector to ensure that they have a salary at the end of the month.

  • 15,787 applications from enterprises have been received for the month of March 2020, out of which 14,271 have been approved.
  • An amount of Rs 1.6 billion has been paid for 15 days of the month of March 2020 in respect of 246,374 employees working in 12,668 enterprises.
  • For the month of April 2020, 13,286 applications were received of which 12,380 have been approved. An amount of Rs 2.8 billion has been paid in respect of 208,887 employees.

With regard to household loans, the Bank of Mauritius has requested Commercial Banks to provide a moratorium of 6 months on capital repayment of household loans.

The Bank of Mauritius will bear the interest payable by households earning less than Rs 50,000 per month for the period 1st April 2020 to 30th June 2020.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

As a caring Government, we have extended both the Self Employed Assistance Scheme and Wage Assistance Scheme for the month of April 2020 and same will be extended for the month of May 2020.

As regard future months, a decision will be taken depending on the evolution of the pandemic to extend the financial support to vulnerable groups through the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

In regard to part (c) of the Question, I am informed that Business Mauritius will implement a protocol on Post-Curfew Work Arrangement which has been cleared with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

As regards the Public Sector, the Ministry of Public Service, Administrative and Institutional Reforms has issued a comprehensive circular to all Ministries and Departments providing guidance for the phased resumption of activities including sanitary rules to be followed at the workplace.

The public has also been invited to make suggestions on Covid related matters on the Besafe Moris platform.

I must say that we have all along been adopting a consultative approach with all stakeholders including Business Mauritius, MCCI, MEXA, AHRIM, Trade Unions and others.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

The social and economic disruption of this crisis will be deep, broad and long-lasting.  It is in our hands to limit the damage and to establish the foundations for a strong rebound afterwards.

I am confident that together, as a united and resolute nation, we shall rise to this daunting challenge.

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Statement of the Prime Minister Hon Pravind Kumar Jugnauth on Containment of COVID-19 and Progressive and Re-opening of the economy

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I have a statement to make on the containment of Covid-19 and the progressive reopening of the economy. Since the statement is quite long, I shall request the indulgence of Honourable Members to bear with me.

The House will recall that when we last met on Friday 20 March 2020, I made a statement in which explained the Government’s preparedness plan and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the measures we were implementing to prevent the entry and spread of the coronavirus in the Republic of Mauritius.

In my statement, I did emphasise the fact that, since early January, with much foresight, the Government had been acting proactively in addressing the emerging and serious threat posed by the spread of the coronavirus from the city of Wuhan in China. I can now say with reasonable satisfaction that Government had prudently and responsibly taken the right decisions at the right time.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Since then, as we are all aware, the coronavirus has continued its inexorable spread across the globe and has been wreaking havoc in its path, stunning some countries and overwhelming their health authorities

by the sheer scale of its impact and the resulting death toll. And there is as yet no proven antidote or vaccine to eliminate this invisible enemy, which COVID-19 is. The pandemic is testing the world’s best scientific and medical brains as well as the limits of human resistance and resilience, and human adaptability.  Indeed, the impact of the pandemic on the global economy has also been on an unprecedented scale. In fact, it is qualified as being worse than the 2008 financial crisis, and even greater than the “Great Depression’’ of the 1930’s.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

As far as Mauritius is concerned, when we last met on Friday 20 March, I informed that we had 12 cases of COVID-19.  The situation worsened rapidly and the number of daily new infections started to rise and reached a peak on Thursday 9 April with 41 reported cases of new infections. In view thereof, and equally taking into account the deteriorating situation at the international level, the Government, and our health authorities, stepped up our vigilance and have been working tirelessly and relentlessly to contain the spread of the disease.  As a matter of fact, the Government took some very bold and necessary measures, in order to stop the spread of the virus. These measures include the following:

  • timely implementation of quarantine measures and designation of new quarantine facilities – in fact with the arrival of more passengers, mainly Mauritians coming back to the country, 20 hotels were turned into quarantine centres in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and AHRIM;
  • posting of Medical and non-medical staff from the Ministry of Health and Wellness to all quarantine centres;
  • regular disinfection of quarantine centres until end of use and handing over;
  • extending all the necessary resources to the health authorities to wage the war against the Covid-19;
  • extension of the total ban on travellers to enter the territory of Mauritius;
  • suspension of all flights to Rodrigues so as to keep the Island free from Covid – 19;
  • preventive measures were also taken to protect the island of Agalega;
  • making of the Prevention and Mitigation of Infectious Disease (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 to deal specifically with the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • issue of first Curfew Order on 23 March 2020 by the Minister of Health and Wellness to break the circuit of transmission of the virus;
  • concurrent closing of all trading premises as an additional measure to prevent the spread of the virus;
  • extension of the Curfew Order on three occasions, as the situation so warranted;
  • maintaining strict control and monitoring at port level, including systematic checks for all cruise ship passengers entering the Mauritian territory while applying entry restrictions that were ongoing for various countries and parts of the world;
  • urgent procurement of medical supplies, protective equipment such as ventilators, test kits, swabs, PCR reagents amongst others. In fact, we arranged for Air Mauritius to airlift more than 340 tonnes of such medical supplies and materials from China;
  • procurement of additional drugs and protective equipment such as, surgical and N-95 masks, Personal Protective Equipment, goggles, gloves, and other essential requirements;
  • screening of health workers, Police officers, Prison officers, prisoners, foreign workers and staff and inmates of homes and shelters;
  • launching of sample community screening campaign for COVID-19 using Rapid Antigen Tests, directed towards front liners;
  • ongoing training of Health staff in collaboration with the World Health Organisation;
  • establishing protocol for treatment of COVID-19 patients using chloroquine and other drugs and plasma pheresis in severe cases using blood donation from cured patients;
  • creation of a HOTLINE 8924 for all matters related to COVID-19 and Health Issues;
  • undertaking massive education and sensitization campaign in the media on preventive and hygiene measures, including the creation of a dedicated web page and mobile app;
  • putting into place a home visit system for urgent cases necessitating medical intervention; and
  • putting into place a triage system in all Regional Hospitals in order to direct patients with COVID-19 like symptoms to flu/fever clinics, thus limiting contact with other patients.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

The Government has all along been very sensitive to the adverse human rights impacts of the drastic economic downturn, and of the disease itself, particularly on the most vulnerable families.  In order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and of the containment measures on the population and reduce their hardship, the Government came up with a host of measures which included:

  • distribution of basic food items to shelters, homes, charitable institutions and to families who are on the Social Register of Mauritius;
  • allowing people to go out during the curfew to avail themselves of urgent medical treatment, essential supplies, foodstuff and medical and other items essential for their subsistence of livelihood;
  • introduction of COVID-19 Wage Support Scheme to provide financial support to employees becoming technically unemployed on a temporary basis – the Scheme covers the travel and tourism sectors, export oriented enterprises, ICT/BPO, SME’S and in other formal sectors of the economy including charitable institutions;
  • introduction of Self-employed Assistance Scheme for those in the informal sector;
  • opening of supermarkets, hypermarkets and retail shops, with shopping allowed in alphabetical order and subject to strict sanitary conditions;
  • an online platform for purchase of limited goods from authorized supermarkets;
  • setting up of the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to finance projects and programmes related to COVID-19 and to provide financial support to persons and organisations affected by COVID-19;
  • setting up of the COVID-19 Projects Development Fund to finance, inter-alia, projects specified in the Public Sector Investment Programme;
  • introduction of price control on hand sanitizers, respirators, masks and on certain identified essential food items and sanitary products;
  • ensuring adequate supply of basic commodities (potatoes and onions) by the Agricultural Marketing Board;
  • use of distance and online media for schooling purposes;
  • payment of child allowance to all families on the Social Register of Mauritius;
  • arrangements for carers looking after elderly and persons with disabilities to also provide them with amenities, including food items and medicines;
  • payment of basic pensions at their place of residence – these are usually, paid through Post Offices; and
  • creating a hotline for victims of domestic violence.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

We have also been maintaining all essential services, through the issue of Work Access Permits, so as to ensure safety and security and reduce hardship during the curfew period. However, appropriate instructions were issued to all public sector organisations to implement the recommended preventive measures so as to protect the health of all employees at the workplace, as recommended by the International Labour Organisation. Similar measures were implemented in the private sector as well.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Much has been said in various quarters on the repatriation of our compatriots from abroad during the curfew period. Let me state in no uncertain terms that the Government has all along been very sensitive to the plight of all our compatriots who were stranded abroad and has acted accordingly.  In fact, Mauritius was one of the first countries to have repatriated its citizens from Wuhan on Sunday 02 February 2020 with the assistance of the Chinese and French authorities.  The Government also provided its assistance and support to all our nationals residing in China who had expressed their willingness to return to Mauritius by Thursday 20 February 2020. We managed to repatriate 35 other Mauritians who were stranded following the spread of COVID-19 in other parts of China. Let me stress on the fact that we took those measures before Wednesday 11 March 2020, that is before WHO declared Covid-19 as a pandemic. Soon after, our diplomatic missions were heavily solicited by more than 1700 Mauritians worldwide.

After the issue of Curfew Order and closing of air space in Mauritius, we also managed to repatriate 935 Mauritians within four days from UK, France, Turkey, Australia, UAE, South Africa, India and Reunion Island before the closing down of air space in those countries. 11 Mauritians were also repatriated from Maldives on Saturday 11 April 2020, and another 29 from Paris on Sunday 26 April 2020.

At the moment, the Government is doing its very best to provide necessary support to the 3000 or so Mauritians who are currently abroad and who wish to return to Mauritius. These Mauritians are either on tourist visits, medical treatment, students, business, pilgrimage or working on cruise ships. Many of them are in fact crew members working on cruise ships harboured in 41 ports around the world. The Government has continuously been engaged in direct consultations with the cruise companies to ensure the safety, welfare and good health of our citizens.

 

The Government is pursuing its efforts for the orderly and phased return of Mauritian nationals in the face of numerous challenges arising in the context of the escalating crisis situation and the international and internal flight restrictions and lockdown measures prevailing in those countries.

The following criteria will apply for establishing priority for repatriation:

  • patients and one accompanying relative or carer;
  • elderly persons above 60; and
  • families with toddlers.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade is currently coordinating the return of stranded Mauritians from other countries.  As a matter of fact, a flight from Johannesburg brought back 77 Mauritians on Thursday 30 April 2020 and a second flight is planned for Friday 08/Saturday 09 May 2020 with 150 stranded Mauritians from Mumbai and Delhi.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I would also like to emphasise the fact that the Government has all along been managing the crisis in a very transparent manner.  We have been holding daily briefings to keep the population informed on the evolution of the COVID-19 situation both at national and international levels. We have also been subjecting ourselves to media scrutiny through direct questions and answers from the press.  However, at some point in time, access to members of the press to our daily briefings became risky and we consequently decided, in the interest of one and all, to shift the Questions and Answers session on a virtual platform.  Moreover, I have personally been addressing the nation on specific occasions to update them on the major Government decisions regarding the containment of COVID-19.

 

Mr Speaker Sir,

The figures we have been obtaining lately, about the new cases of infections, indicate that COVID-19 is well under control in our country.  I must say that this is largely thanks to the commitment, dedication, courage and professionalism of all our front liners, including first and foremost our doctors, nurses and other health care workers, police officers, employees in other essential services and all those who have been helping to keep the country going in these difficult times. They have been dedicating themselves heart and soul at the service of the nation in these testing and trying times.  I would like to pay tribute to all our heroes who led the fight against COVID-19 on the front to save our compatriots.  They truly deserve all our admiration.  We owe to all of them a huge debt of gratitude and we shall remain forever indebted to them.

Unfortunately, we lost 10 of our compatriots in the battle. I would like to express our deepest condolences to the bereaved families.  I also convey my wishes for a prompt recovery to our compatriots who are still afflicted by the disease.

On behalf of my Government, I would also like to express our deep appreciation for the cooperation, understanding and discipline of the large majority of the population during the curfew period.  It is also thanks to their sense of discipline that we have been able to curb the spread of the virus in the country.

I would also like to seize this opportunity to thank all persons, organisations and partner countries for their valuable assistance and donations extended to Mauritius in its battle against the COVID-19.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Although, we may not be out of the woods yet, we have through the relentless efforts of one and all, succeeded in curbing the progress of the disease to an extent that we consider it safe enough to ease the restrictions to some extent and move for a progressive reopening of economic and other activities.  The strategy and action plan for the reopening, which the Government announced on Friday last, hinges around one central concern of Government and that is, the continued protection of public health, which remains our top-most priority.

We have to avoid, by all means, the risk of any set back with a resurgence of the disease that would squander the gains achieved through the confinement and also to avoid heavy strain on our health services and the economy in general.

The country must, therefore, remain on high alert and continue to strictly observe social distancing and sanitary guidelines.  It is only through discipline that we can continue to keep the enemy at bay.  We must also bear in mind that this is not the responsibility of the Government alone.  Every single one of us has a role to play.  This is what is unique about this battle.  We can fight it and break the cycle if we come together. And together we WILL win, and together we WILL successfully adapt to the New World Order, from the economic and other related angles, that will emerge post-COVID-19.

I know it may at times be painful to stay indoors for a long time, away from friends and families.  But it is for their sake as well.  And then we have no alternatives.  We all know what is at stake.  When it comes to the safety and security of our people, we cannot afford to take any risk.  We will stop at nothing to save lives.   This is the reason why Government has opted for a cautious approach and extended the curfew period with the progressive reopening of economic and other activities.  I am convinced that the Mauritian patriotic spirit will prevail and we will ultimately defeat COVID-19.

 

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Our nation has fought and won may other battles before. Like our forefathers who lifted themselves up from their bootstraps, boldly faced so many adversities and strongly resisted the whips and the scorns of their times, neither retreating nor surrendering from their relentless efforts in togetherness and solidarity to protect and save lives, the Government shall, in the national interest, neither retreat nor surrender from the measures we have taken to protect and safeguard the health of the population and to save lives which are in these trying times our topmost priority.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Let me conclude by quoting Mr. Benjamin Disraeli “The care of the public health is the first duty of the statesman.” Unquote.

Thank You.

 

 

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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

B/1      The Honourable Fourth Member for Mahebourg and Plaine Magnien (Mr Richard Duval)

To ask the Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity –

Whether, in regard to the Mahebourg Village, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the number of reported cases of drugs addicts creating havoc thereat during the implementation of the Curfew Order, indicating the (a) measures taken in relation thereto and (b) number of arrests effected in connection therewith?

 

REPLY

 

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that there have been no reported cases of drug addicts creating havoc in Mahebourg Village during the implementation of the Curfew Order.

However, during the curfew period, the ADSU has been mandated to:

  • assist other Divisions of the Mauritius Police Force to ensure compliance with the conditions of the Sanitary Curfew;
  • conduct patrols for the prevention of larcenies and other illegal activities;
  • carry out targeted crackdown operations for the prevention and detection of illegal activities related to drugs; and
  • keep watch on suspicious individuals who are likely to cause trouble in public places or break into private or public premises.

In this respect, a Tactical Operations Room has been set up at the ADSU Headquarters, under the supervision of an Assistant Superintendent of Police/Superintendent of Police to monitor the operations of ADSU teams on field and to attend to any emergency or important reported matter.  This service is operational on a daily basis up to 03.00 a.m.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

          As regards part (b) of the Question, although there have been no reported cases of drug addicts creating havoc, ADSU proceeded with the arrest of 7 persons in connection with drug dealing offences thereat.

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B/2      The Honourable Fourth Member for Mahebourg and Plaine Magnien
(Mr Richard Duval)

To ask the Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity –

Whether, in regard to the Workplace Access Permit, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to the (a) number thereof issued since 19 March 2020 to date (b) eligibility criteria for the issue thereof and (c) actions taken by the Police force to ensure the execution of the Curfew Order?

REPLY

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Following the identification of the first three cases of COVID-19 in Mauritius on 18 March 2020, I addressed the nation on 19 March 2020 and announced, amongst others, the decision to impose a sanitary confinement for the Republic of Mauritius to be effective as from 0600 hours on Friday 20 March 2020. The aim was to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus disease.

Subsequently, on 22 March 2020, with a view to enforcing the decision, a first Curfew Order, made by the Minister of Health and Wellness under regulation 14(1) of the Prevention and Mitigation of Infectious Disease (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 was issued.

The Curfew Order, inter-alia, provided that no person shall remain outdoors as from 20.00 hours on 23 March 2020, with the exception of the following classes of persons, for the purpose of leaving their place of residence for their place of work and back:

(a)     such judicial officers in respect of such minimum judicial services as the Chief Justice deems essential, and such employees of the public sector, including Ministries and Government departments, public enterprises and statutory bodies, providing essential services to the public as may be designated by the Head of the public bodies concerned; and

(b)     employees of the private sector providing strictly essential minimum services.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Due to the increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, a second Order was issued on 31 March 2020 to extend the curfew period up to 15 April 2020.  The Curfew period was subsequently extended for a third time up to 04 May 2020 by way of a new Curfew Order issued on 12 April 2020. A fourth Order has been issued on 04 May 2020 further extending the Curfew period up to 01 June 2020.

The Curfew Orders issued, also provided for the Commissioner of Police to issue permits to persons on such terms and conditions as he may impose, where he is satisfied that the presence of such persons at their place of work is essential for the provision of minimum services.

The objective of issuing the permits was to enable employees attend their respective sites of work to perform essential economic activities to ensure that the population at large obtains the minimum services and basic necessities such as food, utilities and medical service to enable them to sustain their living during the confinement period.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

As regards part (a) of the Question, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that 7,492 permits have been issued during the period 22 March to 04 May 2020, thus allowing 182,595 persons of both the public and private sectors to move to their respective place of work and back home. It is to be noted that several organisations were granted permits to enable them to maintain service on a shift/ roster basis.

I must also point out that this figure does not include some 26,000 employees of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Police Department, Prisons Department, who, in view of the specific nature of their duties, have been exempted from the requirements of a permit to be able to attend their respective sites of work as from 20 March 2020.

Moreover, during the initial period of sanitary curfew, that is, pending the issue of the first Curfew Order, some 3,600 persons, including Ministers, Heads and senior staff of Ministries/Departments, employees of Air Mauritius, Airports of Mauritius, ATOL, MRA Customs and the Mauritius Ports Authority were allowed to attend their respective place of work from 20 March to 22 March 2020 without any permit.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

With a view to ensuring a continuous supply of vegetables, meat and dairy products, on 26 March 2020, after consultation with the Commissioner of Police, the Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security issued a Communique authorizing planters to use their Farmer’s cards issued by the Small Farmers Welfare Fund and breeders to use their Business Registration Card for the sole purpose of attending their respective plantations and farms during the curfew period. Some 8,000 planters and breeders were thus exempted from the need to apply for a permit.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

On 26 April 2020, an amendment was made to the Prevention and Mitigation of Infectious Disease (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 by way of GN 81 of 2020 to provide for the following persons to be exempted from a permit:

  • a person who has to avail himself of medical treatment, or procure essential supplies, food stuff, medicine or any other item essential for his or his family’s subsistence or livelihood;
  • a Judge or Magistrate for the purpose of attending Court;
  • a barrister or an attorney whose services have been retained by a person to attend a police station, place of detention or Court;
  • a medical practitioner for the purpose of attending a hospital, private medical institution or patient in need of urgent medical care;
  • a pharmacist for the purpose of attending his place of work.”

Mr Speaker, Sir,

In regard to part (b) of the Question, I wish to inform the House that in light of consultations held, it was decided that a minimum number of employees of both the public and private sectors will, subject to such conditions as the Commissioner of Police may impose, be issued with a permit to remain outdoors for the sole purpose of leaving their place of residence to their place of work and back. I am accordingly tabling a copy of the relevant Government Notice No 515 of 2020 as well as the list of approved sectors. (Table A)

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I am informed that the criteria used to determine the eligibility of applications are as follows:

  • (i) Whether the applicant falls under the priority sectors listed on the application form.
  • (ii) Whether the activities to be carried out are necessary for the provision of basic commodities and services to contribute the ease the hardship of the population.
  • (iii) Whether the service to be provided involves the movement or grouping of large number of persons at a same place
  • (iv) Applicants should be registered with the relevant authority or should possess their relevant trade licence.
  • (v) Inability of employees to work from home.

Applications not falling under the approved sectors were also considered on a case to case basis, depending on the area of activities and justification provided in the application form, for example firms providing support or technical intervention or maintenance services to banks, hospitals etc.

 

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I am further informed that a permit is issued by the Commissioner of Police only where he is satisfied that the employer meets all the criteria for the grant thereof.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I wish to add that, following the extension of the curfew order up to 01 June 2020, permits would be issued to allow additional economic activities to take place as from 15 May 2020 as follows:

  • hardware stores;
  • Metro and taxis with limited number of passengers;
  • Motor cyclists without passenger (except for child or spouse)
  • Restaurants and fast food for take away, drive thru and home delivery only;
  • hairdressers, fish sellers, meat sellers, plumbers, electricians etc
  • baby sitters, fishermen;
  • additional officers of the public sector;

Mr Speaker, Sir,

As regards the application process, I am informed that on 22 March 2020, a communique was issued by the Office of the Commissioner of Police inviting employers belonging to the approved sectors to make an application to the Commissioner of Police for the issue of a permit in relation to their employees, while also reminding them that permits shall only be issued where the Commissioner of Police is satisfied that the presence of an employee at his place of work is essential to the provision of minimum services in view of the fact that such a permit is an exception to the general rule of restriction of the movement of persons.

Moreover, the Application Form provides for the employer to sign an Undertaking with a view to certifying that the activities indicated therein are essential to the functioning of his organisation and that he shall comply with all guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Wellness on COVID-19. I am tabling a copy of the application form which incorporates the conditions attached to the grant of the permit to applicant (Table B)

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Regarding part (c) of the Question, I am informed that the Police Department has since the coming into force of the Curfew Order, taken the several measures, such as police presence round-the-clock around the island, road blocks and vehicles check points adopting a zero tolerance and booking of contraveners, amongst others. To this effect, I am informed that some 14,831 persons have been booked for Breach of Curfew Order as at 04 May 2020.

I am tabling a detailed list of the measures taken by Police to enforce the curfew order.  (Table C)

Mr Speaker, Sir,

The COVID-19 pandemic indeed represents an unprecedented challenge for our country. In this extremely difficult time, I would like to commend the exceptional and dedicated works being done by our front-liners, that is, the staff of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and those of the Police Department, who despite a few unfortunate incidents, have been able to maintain law and order across the country.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I would also like to extend my gratitude to the staff of all other organisations who are contributing significantly to fight the spread of the coronavirus among the population. I would therefore, reiterate my earlier request to the nation to join hands with us so as to face this daunting situation.

On the same occasion, I would like to express my sympathy to the bereaved families and close relatives of the ten persons who passed away due to the Coronavirus disease.

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B/4      The Honourable Second Member for La Caverne and Phoenix (Mr Assirvaden)

            To ask the Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity –

            Whether, in regard to the accident which occurred at Wooton, on
26 November 2019 in which a Police Officer was involved, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the Commissioner of Police, information as to where matters stand as to the inquiry carried out thereinto, indicating the administrative and/or legal actions, if any, taken against the said Police Officer?

REPLY

Mr Speaker, Sir,

I wish first of all to present my sympathy to the bereaved family.

I am informed by the Commissioner of Police that on 26 November 2019 at 10.30 hours a road accident occurred at Wooton, during which a Police Van, driven by Police Officer D. hit two pump attendants, namely, Mr R.G and Mr A.D.L who were on duty at the Indian Oil Filing Station located thereat.  Both were injured and one of the victims, Mr R.G, passed away on 28 November 2019.

I am further informed that an investigation into the case was carried by the CID Central Division and on 28 November 2019, the Police Officer D was arrested.  A provisional charge of ‘Involuntary Homicide by Imprudence’ was lodged against him before the Magistrate of the District Court of Curepipe, on 29 November 2019.  He was remanded to Police cell and was released on bail on 02 December 2019 after furnishing a surety of Rs 30,000.

On 30 January 2020, after investigation the case was sent for advice to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who referred back the case to the CID Central Division for further enquiry on 14 February 2020.

In addition, on 29 November 2019, the Police Officer was transferred from Eau Coulee Police Station to Curepipe Police Station and on 18 December 2019, from Curepipe Police Station to Special Support Unit.

The enquiry is ongoing and on completion, the advice of DPP will be sought anew.

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B/5      The Honourable First Member for Beau Bassin and Petite Rivière (Mr Bhagwan)

            To ask the Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communications, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity –

            Whether, in regard to the Board of the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain therefrom, information as to the (a) composition thereof, indicating in respect of the Chairperson and Members thereof, the (i) date of appointment (ii) qualifications held and (iii) terms and conditions of appointment and (b) number of meetings held by the Board as presently constituted, indicating the date of the last meeting and names of the members who attended same?

REPLY

Mr Speaker, Sir,

As regards Part (a) of the Question, I wish to inform the House that the present composition of the Board of the Information and Communication Technologies Authority is as follows-

  • Mr Dick NG SUI WA, Chairperson;

 

  • Mr Om Kumar DABIDIN, Secretary for Home Affairs, Representative of the Prime Minister’s Office;
  • Mr Veersingh BOODHNA, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Representative of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development;
  • Ms Sandrine VALERE, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation;
  • Mr Luchmyparsad AUJAYEB, Assistant Solicitor-General, Representative of the Attorney-General’s Office;
  • Mr Oomaduth JADOO; and
  • Mr Mahendranath SUMPUTH.

The Chairperson and Members were appointed on 11 February 2020 except for Ms Sandrine VALERE, Permanent Secretary, who, on 16 March 2020, replaced Mr Chettandeo BHUGUN who was designated representative of the Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation on 11 February 2020.

Mr Tushyadev JADUNUNDUN was also appointed as Member of the Board on 11 February 2020 but he submitted his resignation on 20 April 2020.

As regards Parts (a) (ii) and (iii) of the Question, I am tabling the information requested for.

Mr Speaker, Sir,

With regard to Part (b) of the Question, I am informed by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority that only one meeting of the Board has been held, and this was on 26 February 2020. It was attended by all the Members who formed part of the Board constituted on 11 February 2020, except the representative of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.

I am also informed that a second Board meeting scheduled for 26 March 2020 could not be held due to the COVID19 lockdown.

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Photos credit: MBC TV

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