Mauritius on Tuesday began vaccinating against Covid-19, a crucial step for the Indian Ocean archipelago nation as it seeks to revive its hard-hit tourism industry and welcome visitors again.
An on-duty doctor at Victoria Hospital, in the central town of Quatre-Bornes, was the first to receive the jab, with about 100 other medical staff expected to be vaccinated Tuesday.
Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal said the campaign would initially target frontline healthcare staff treating Covid patients, and workers meeting passengers at the airport.
The vaccine being given is the Oxford-AstraZeneca formula, manufactured in India under the name of Covishield.
India has donated an initial 100,000 doses, which were ceremonially handed over to Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth on Friday by the Indian high commissioner to Mauritius, Nandini Singla.
Mauritius, with a population of 1.3 million, has officially recorded 568 cases and 10 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
But the economic cost has been severe for Mauritius, an idyllic beach destination reliant on vacationers.
Jugnauth said Friday that the country plans to vaccinate 60 percent of its population in 2021 in the hope of kickstarting economic activity and the hospitality sector.
“The vaccination campaign will enable Mauritius to review the conditions of entry of passengers to Mauritius and allow the tourism sector, which was the economic sector most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, to restart,” he said.
Visitors to Mauritius must undergo a mandatory test for Covid-19 before undergoing two weeks of quarantine.
Foreign Minister Nandkumar Bodha said some 200,000 additional doses of vaccine are expected to arrive from India by the end of March.
He also said Mauritius had purchased 240,000 doses through the Covax programme, an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and private partners for equitable distribution of vaccines.