Applying current skills to a new crisis
Since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mauritius on 18 March 2020, the outbreak of the virus evolved rapidly from sporadic cases to clusters by 9 April 2020. With 15% of the population aged above 65 years, the Government of Mauritius had to react promptly to reduce fatalities among all the vulnerable groups, especially the elderly. A ban on entry became effective on 19 March 2020 and Cabinet announced a national lockdown from 20 March 2020, followed by a curfew.
Detection and prevention of infectious disease is complex, more so in Mauritius which has a high volume of international travellers and a high population density, conditions that increase the risks of infection. However, with solid experience in managing infectious diseases, like dengue fever, the country managed to quickly bring the COVID-19 under control through traveller registration, tracing and testing. By the end of May, more than 105,000 PCR and Rapid Antigen tests had been carried out.
With 334 cases and 322 recovered at the end of May, Mauritius appears to have effectively managed the current COVID-19 wave. Detection, tracking and control of sources of infection such as clusters and transmission routes, were central in preventing further spread. Despite a quite efficient response to the present sanitary crisis, Mauritius still has to increase its capacity to respond to future health crises. As the country reopens for business, further waves remain a real possibility and future case management will require new ideas and tools to improve testing and tracing.
During the past three months, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has clearly felt the need to scale up its capacity to process a large number of COVID-19 tests on a daily basis and to provide for a timely and effective reporting capability. Within this context, the government has requested the support of UNDP in Mauritius to secure an Electronic Laboratory Information System, which adheres to the World Health Organisation guidelines.
Chasing COVID-19 Using Digital Tools and Collaboration
In collaboration with the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development the OpenELIS software, based on open source software, was made available to the Ministry of Health and Wellness through our repository for digital tools. The adequacy of the System was tested by the Central Health Laboratory (CHL) in collaboration with the Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation.
The software has now been customised to provide for a flexible COVID-19 test catalogue; batch processing of bio-samples; and barcode generation for improved printing and reporting capabilities.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Mauritius, the CHL has enhanced testing capacity through the implementation of the OpenELIS system together with the implementation of IT and other testing equipment. The Government now plans to upgrade the system into a National Laboratory Management System available to all public hospitals and medical centres for overall health system strengthening.
Preparedness to manage new pandemics at all levels is underway, and the UNDP Prepare, Respond and Recover Project (PREP) remains ready to continue to assist.