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The Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Maurice Lousteau Lalanne, updated the National Assembly on the work being done by all the ministries and government organisations in order to deal with COVID-19 and its impact on some key sectors like aviation.

Last week the Leader of the Opposition acted like a person who cannot appreciate the fact that the country is handling a national emergency. He led his team while they walked out of the National Assembly. This week, using his famous skills or contrivance of false appearance of virtue he asked for a standing ovation for the Public Health Commissioner, while concealing his real thoughts. Dr. Gedeon needed his support and understanding last week and not some kind of showdown or confrontation using the Assembly, amid such a challenging time. COVID-19 is not about LOTO’s ambition to become president but about Seychelles facing many difficulties, especially with Europe in lockdown.

What is COVID-19 in Seychelles?
We produce the minister’s address:
“The situation surrounding the pandemic caused by the new Coronavirus is dynamic- it is constantly changing. It is a very serious disease and in some cases it is fatal.
The Department of Health has been doing a formidable job to update the population with information on any latest development.
We have been receiving adequate information, with statistics, from the Public Health Commissioner and his team.
We know about the confirmed cases, where they are from, where they are presently and what shall happen to them. We have in total 7 confirmed cases. Three Seychellois and 4 foreigners. 3 men and 4 women. Their ages varied between 20 and 67 year- old.
We are also aware of those in quarantine and that they shall stay there for 14 days, if they do not develop the symptoms of COVID-19. There are those who are in quarantine at home for 14 days because they had contact with those who have tested positive. Until Monday 23 there was 129 people in quarantine.

  • 11 Perseverance
  • 13 Maison de Football
  • 53 Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay
  • 52 quarantine at home

Yesterday, Monday 23 March, the Public Health Commissioner declared COVID-19 an emergency public health and the law permits him, to use all the necessary resources to address this pandemic in our country. It is within this context that the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Hotel has been legally requisitioned and transformed into an official quarantine centre. It should be noted that the Berjaya Group fully coorperated with the authority as they understood why the decision had to be taken. For this we thank them enormously. We shall be transferring everybody in quarantine there as it will be easier to deal with them under one roof.
The measures that we’ve taken so far focused on the following:

First
Make sure that infected people do not enter the country. We have legally prohibited any travel outside of Seychelles and all foreigners from the region where infections are high, will not enter the country as well.
Some countries in Europe, USA, China, Iran, Australia and some other Asian countries. The list was published.

Second
We’ve put people (both Seychellois and foreigners) who have entered the country in quarantine if they have been infected but are yet to develop the symptoms.
We’ve also put some people in quarantine because they’ve had contact with those tested positive.

Third
We have isolated the people who have the symptoms of COVID-19, tested them and treated them. We have identified firstly the Anse Royale Hospital and the Perseverance Hospital as two isolation and treatment centres.
The health specialists and experts have come together to establish all the protocols and ways to react in each situation, to take care of all the sick patients.
Treatment of patients by the doctors is based on the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), adapted specifically for Seychelles.
Appropriate trainings for the groups or individual who needed more knowledge and skills to provide care have been done.

Fourth
We have advised people to exercise social distancing to reduce the risk of transmission of this disease locally in our communities.
It is for that reason that measures put in place include the closure of schools and a ban on large gatherings. The majority of people have understood and cooperated.

Fifth
We have also placed emphasis on how information is circulated by the media and the public- that information should be specifically on the disease and the services associated with the disease. People are relying on the correct information we provide.
We continue to do health promotion in the media. There are also educational songs which is the initiatives of some individuals. People have been getting information on how the disease is spread and what they should do to prevent transmission.
We have to remain united, in solidarity with each other and ensure that we put in practice the preventive measures recommended by the Health Department, to protect ourselves, our family, our neighbours and society.

In tourism
As of Monday 23 March, there was 192 countries and territories, with a total of 380, 000 people infected and Europe has been declared as the new ‘epicenter’.

  • European countries affected 55 in total
  • Four of our main tourism markets, France has a total of 22,302 cases
  • Germany has 31,554 cases
  • UK has 8,077 cases and;
  • Italy has 69,176 cases.

Until the second week of March, most hotels in Seychelles still had favourable occupancy. All cancellation and postponement were still at a reasonable level. However, the hotels remarked that new bookings were not coming in.
Since we have put a ban on flights from Europe, we noted that arrivals have been reducing drastically and we expect this to continue with other countries closing their frontiers and airlines reducing or stopping their flights and services.
The Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) is assessing the impact on the tourism establishments. A survey held during the weekend revealed that 72 establishments have reacted.

  • The establishments that have filled in the form, 71% are guesthouses and self-catering, 7% big hotels, 13% medium and 3% delux villas and 6% other accommodations.
  • The 72 establishments represent 866 rooms in total and occupancy for the 866 rooms stands at 19%.
  • 2367 cancellations between February 25 and March 23 have been recorded.
  • The total value of the annulled bookings until now stands at 3.8 million dollars.
  • The 72 establishments have recorded 215 postponement of bookings for later in the year.

Information on the services provided by the different airlines flying to Seychelles, changes frequently. Statistics for March 23 shows that:

  • Qatar Airways- all flights have been suspended as from March 23 to May 31 2020
  • Sri Lankan Airlines- for the time being only the flights between March 18 and April 27 have been suspended, except for March 28
  • Air Mauritius- all flights since March 20 remains on schedule to repatriate visitors, after that all flight have been suspended till April 19
  • Turkish Airlines- since March 23, all flights have been suspended till April 13
  • Kenya Airways- as from March 26 all flights will be cancelled
  • Ethiopians Airlines- flights have reduced to only 4 per week
  • Air Austral- all flights have been suspended as from March 27 till April 12
  • Emirates- all flights have been suspended as from March 25, but there are flights repatriating visitors
  • Air Seychelles- flights to South Africa have reduced to only 3 per week- Mumbai has closed for 7 days since Sunday and Mauritius has closed for one week

For the second quarter of this year, STB is presently working on a plan to encourage all tourist services to give holidays to all their Seychellois employees. Bearing in mind that this plan will not take immediate effect considering the restrictions imposed for health reasons- social distancing. But depending on how the situation evolves while we wait for aviation to resume its normal business this plan can be considered.
STB is also working on a plan to relaunch Seychelles on some markets coinciding with winter. There is a representative from the Tourism Department who sits on the committee for Integrated Disease Surveillance Response which responsibility is to take decision on measures and activities that the public health has to take regarding COVID-19. This representative pass on information with the Department of tourism and Health and work to ensure that there is good communication on travel advisories. One of the decisions taken is the ban on some flights.
All tourism related conferences and gatherings including those relating to UNWTO have been postponed. The only thing we’ve been doing are trainings with the assistance of Health on COVID-19. We continue to distribute information in the form of posters and videos and also travel advisories with the hotel establishments.

SCAA
The Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) is respecting certain obligations and taking up measures required during such emergencies. With the COVID-19 pandemic, SCAA has revised all its measures in place and enhanced its efforts in the interests of public health. The new measures are guided by the practices and guidelines recommended by ICAO, that have to do with good preparation and management in situations where public health is of national emergency throughout the world.
Health security and protection measures for airport staff include;
1. Installation of sanitizers around the premise of the airport and offices.
2. Staff who come in direct contact with the visitors are wearing the appropriate gears such as mask and gloves.
3. The necessary is being done to provide more assistance to Customs and Immigration.
4. Sensitizing all the SCAA staff and other people who work at the airport on the importance of good personal hygiene in line with advice from the Health Department.

Work is in progress to clean and disinfect public places at the airport.
The Health Department has also provided necessary trainings to the staff at SKYCHEF on how to clean and disinfect the planes and other areas relevant to the airport.
The section that manages the airport within SCAA is working in collaboration with health officials on duty, to ensure that visitors and residents are directed to the appropriate places to verify and check their body temperatures.
SCAA will be installing ‘thermal’ cameras (they detect body temperature) to replace the existing ones at the VIP Lounge, where passengers are in transit and domestic terminal.
SCAA has intensified its campaign to encourage a high level of hygiene amongst its workers and other services at the airport, on Mahe and Praslin.
SCAA has been meeting with officials from the Health Department to discuss the situation and do the necessary so that it plays its part in containing COVID-19.
SCAA also remains in contact with the businesses at the airport and also the airlines. All officials of SCAA have put a stop to official trips overseas for at least 3 months, following the directives of the President. SCAA has also postponed all the new charges planned to implement at the airport and analyzing the financial impact on the organization and overall, on the aviation industry.

Port
The Seychelles Port Authority has temporarily closed access to leisure boats coming to Seychelles. There are many big yachts asking for permission to come here but due to COVID-19, we cannot allow them to come in.

Finance
With regards to the Finance Ministry, following latest developments with COVID-19, in collaboration with other partners we are revising the economic situation for 2020. Our worst-case scenario indicates that Real GDP Growth will reduce to reach 10.8% negative compared to 3.5% projected in Budget 2020. With the new budget we expect a deficit rather than a surplus we projected in October 2020.
The immediate effect of the Coronavirus is evidently in tourism, our pillar sector. We expect that growth in this sector will go down by 64%. Accommodation and food services will be most affected which will have a repercussion on other sectors such as in Support and Administration services, Wholesale and Retail as well as Transportation.
However, we expect that in other sectors other activities will help provide some growth such as in Information and Telecommunications, Health, Fisheries and Agriculture. The situation in sectors such as Financial and Insurance remain in uncertainty.
President Danny Faure introduced new measures last Friday which will help our economy as we face this global crisis, to ensure that no employee losses their job and also no business go into closure as a result of this pandemic.
The ministry is finalizing a new budget which will be presented to the National Assembly on March 31.

During normal times, consummation products and services bring in growth in terms of revenue, profits and taxes. This, gradually increase salaries which in return help the people have more money to spend on products and services.
In Seychelles most revenues we get on products and services come from the tourism sector representing 25% GDP. Without this revenue, it means there can be a catastrophic recession.
The aim of the measures put in place will allow the economy to continue to function. It will minimize the risk and money will remain in circulation. We have to encourage local production in agriculture and fisheries. For that reason, we are appealing to people to continue to collaborate with one another.
Those measures are:

  • Maintaining salaries of all employees in the private sector for the month of April, May and June which will be paid for by government.
  • There shall be no redundancy.
  • Government will increase the budget for Unemployment Relief Scheme (URS).
  • With the assistance of the Commercial Banks, repayments of loans will be reduced for a period of 6 months in exceptional cases.
  • In businesses, all tax obligations for the month of March has been postponed to September 2020.
  • ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Tax’, Tourism Marketing Tax, and Business Tax for the months of April, May and June will also be postponed until September 2020.

STC on its part, is finalizing its revision Budget 2020 which will come before the National Assembly at the end of the month.

Education
The Ministry of Education and Human Resources has taken the following measures so far:

  • Sensitizing all School Health and Safety Committees and representatives of all educational institutions held on March 13.
  • Distribution of posters and leaflets (print and digital) for education and information purposes in all educational institutions and staff headquarters.
  • Sensitization programmes at school level for students and staff with the help of the school nurse and public health official in their respective district.
  • Sensitization programme for the cleaning agencies providing services at the schools and other educational institutions.
  • Re-enforcing education on the need to have good personal hygiene
  • Ensuring that there are adequate sanitary facilities at all institutions.

Following decisions taken by both the Public Health authority and DRDM, all schools were closed on March 15 for two weeks. Meanwhile the Ministry has put in place its plan to help the students learn from home. Part of the plan requested that parents collect school materials for their children, and the ministry noted that parents had been forthcoming.
President Faure announced last Friday that all day cares, child minding facilities, primary and secondary schools, also all professional centres will be closed pending new announcement on reopening. The ministry remains on top of its game to collaborate with its partners and parents to keep the students preoccupied with learning.
It is also reviewing its school calendar to minimize any negative impact with regards to learning on the students. Just as well it is also in close contact with international institutions to keep abreast on developments regarding exams, such as with Cambridge, AAT, City and Guilds etc. There are announcements that have been made for example Cambridge has postponed exams to October 2020. Graduations from professional centres and SALS have been postponed.
ANHRD has a total of 484 students in 32 different countries. 40 of them in china have already returned home except for two who were restricted by the Wuhan authorities. They arrived home on February 17 after having spent two weeks in quarantine in France. 4 students chose to remain in China. They are well and continuing their studies via online learning.
ANHRD is also assisting some students to cover the cost of internet as they too are studying online.
As for the rest of the Seychellois students overseas they are being overseen by their respective Embassies and Honorary Consuls. Finance has already given its approval so that stipends are paid at the earliest possible. The procedure has started to pay stipends for the month of May, June and July.

Agriculture
The Ministry of Agriculture is discussing with partners or actors which are basically the suppliers of inputs needed in production.
In livestock, there is enough feed for 2 months. This shall increase to 3 months but the authorities have to consider shelf life of the feed and not exceed 6 months.
The only dilemma is Day Old Chicken which is not being imported in large quantities due to infertility of the eggs.
The Agricultural Agency provides seeds and fertilizers for production. Stock for such covers a period of three months. Missing are Nitrophoska and UREA coming in within the next 25 days.
In our effort to increase regional trade, the Agency for National Biosecurity has cleared importation following a Pest Risk Assessment done in the following countries to allow importations:

  • Kenya: meat, leafy vegetables and fruits
  • Ethiopia: meat, avocado and spices
  • South Africa: meat and fruits
  • Mauritius: leafy vegetables and other products categorized as (gro manze)
  • Madagascar: rice with EU standards

All that is being done in line with the Comprehensive Agricultural Plan but we only had to double our efforts and increase production quicker than we had projected.
The President announced that 14 plots of land have been identified for agricultural purposes. Farmers are being encouraged to produce and that STC shall purchase all their goods. Interests on loans for farmers and fishermen have been reduced from 2.5% to 1%.
Seychelles is making itself ready for any eventuality. We are following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation. We have a national plan to deal with this situation and we have mobilized the public and private sector, Civil Society and all individuals to each do its part.
WHO and some governments have agreed to come and join us so that they help us get through this period. There is presently an expert working with the Health Department since Monday this week- he has expertise in dealings with epidemics throughout Africa.
We are all hoping that the Coronavirus pandemic is put under control so that it can be eradicated. We have no idea if it will reappear in China, but as long as Europe is in lockdown, there is a major repercussion on our country.
Most of our medical supplies come from European countries. So, the lockdown in these countries will affect our stock if it persists. We are looking for alternative suppliers.
We have our students in universities in many European countries. Their studies may be delayed. Which also means delays of human resources for our country.
But I remain confident that with all the measures we have put in place, God will bless our country.”

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