Seychelles closes its borders to Europe as fourth COVID-19 case is detected | 17 March 2020
By Elsie Pointe
In its effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect its citizens, Seychelles has extended its travel restrictions to include the European Union, United Kingdom, Switzerland as well as the French departments of Reunion and Mayotte.
Meanwhile, Seychellois students and residents who are presently in Europe will be allowed back in Seychelles but they will be placed under immediate and obligatory 14-day quarantine.
The new restrictions will take effect as from 8pm tomorrow, Wednesday March 18, to allow travel agencies and airlines around 48 hours to undertake the necessary changes to their bookings and schedules.
The travel ban is expected to last for a period of one month after which it will be revised.
The decision, which many Seychellois had been clamouring for on social media, was announced yesterday afternoon following a high level economic meeting headed by President Danny Faure at State House.
It also comes after investigatory test on the wife of the Dutchman who tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday returned positive for the virus.
This brings the number of total confirmed cases in Seychelles to four in the space of three days.
While explaining the reason for the new travel restrictions, health commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon said: “The situation in many parts of the world, mainly Europe, is not getting better. In fact, the pandemic is escalating in many European countries and given that the medical staff in Seychelles already has to deal with a situation in-country, it was felt that it was necessary to relieve this pressure further and to remove the chances of the introduction of new cases.”
“This measure will be revised after one month. If it so happens that things change before this time, then the measure can also be revised,” he added.
All four of the COVID-19 patients are receiving treatment at the isolation centre in Anse Royale.
As of the time of the interview with Dr Gedeon yesterday afternoon, none of the COVID-19 patients were in critical condition.
“The two Seychellois are doing fine but they have yet to meet the criteria to be discharged,” Dr Gedeon stated.
He stressed that the medical staff are conducting contact tracing on the passengers who were on the same flight as the Seychellois and Dutch couples who flew in on Wednesday March 11 on Emirates flight EK 705.
Additionally, Dr Gedeon further confirmed that two British citizens, a couple, have also been placed at the isolation centre and undertaking tests after the department of health learnt that their daughter, who is residing in the United Kingdom, has been detected positive for COVID-19.
The British couple are not displaying any symptoms of the virus.
They had arrived in Seychelles on Friday March 13 and were staying at a hotel located in Beau Vallon.
Altogether, there are eight individuals in quarantine, two of them are children.
Further, the department of health and the department of immigration did not allow entry to three Spaniards who arrived in the country yesterday morning and they were sent back to Spain.
Travel restrictions on persons coming in from Iran, China (including the special administrative regions), South Korea are still in place.
Meanwhile, Dr Gedeon strongly advised against the movement of students who have been given 14 days off from school, stating that this is counter-productive to the efforts being undertaken by the department of health and the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development.
Overview and situation analysis
As at March 16, 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has exceeded 153,000 in 143 different countries. According to the WHO situation report of March 15, 2020, the total number of deaths globally stands at 5735, most (3204) having occurred in China, followed by Europe, Iran and South Korea. While the epidemic has been slowing down in China, most European countries have registered confirmed cases, with the rate of infection rising very fast in some countries, where further restrictive measures are being taken.
Community transmission within China, South Korea, Iran and Europe remain significant. It is evident that the open borders of EU countries have facilitated transmission from one country to the next. WHO has declared Europe as the present epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, with significant increase in numbers and community transmission of new infections.
Containment continues to be a challenge worldwide. The escalation of the outbreak globally has resulted in many countries adopting measures that limit travel. Flight bookings into Seychelles have already reduced significantly and this will certainly impact adversely on the tourism and other industries. However, with the outbreak escalating in Europe, the new epicenter, the risk of having more passengers infected with COVID-19 arriving in Seychelles continues to increase. Seychelles needs to focus its resources in dealing with the current situation and protecting its citizens from the virus. Therefore, the following measures are being introduced and existing ones reinforced.
Revised travel measures
Effective March 18, 2020, 8pm Seychelles’ time,
- Given that Europe is now the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is significant increase in numbers and community transmission of new infections, any passenger who has been to ANY country in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the French departments of Reunion and Mayotte, in the last 14 days (except returning Seychellois citizens) will NOT be allowed to enter Seychelles.
- In the event that a person who has been to ANY country in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the French departments of Reunion and Mayotte, in the last 14 days (except returning Seychellois citizens) arrives in Seychelles, he/she will not be allowed entry and the carrier airline or vessel will be responsible for the immediate return of the passenger.
- All returning Seychellois citizens from ANY country in Europe including the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the French departments of Reunion and Mayotte, will be placed under obligatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
In the meantime, the following measures continue to apply:
- Until further notice, NO persons (apart from returning citizens and residents of those countries), are allowed to travel to China, including the Special Administrative Region (SAR), South Korea, Iran and Europe (Italy, Spain and Netherlands) and places where there has been significant local transmission.
- All returning Seychellois citizens who have been to China, including the SAR, South Korea, Iran and Europe (Italy, Spain and Netherlands) and places where there has been significant local transmission will be placed under obligatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
- Local trade partners are advised to give all visitors from China, including the SAR, South Korea, Iran, Europe (Italy, Spain and Netherlands) and places where there has been significant local transmission, and who were planning to visit the Seychelles in the coming weeks and months, the opportunity to cancel or postpone their holiday at no cost.
- All foreign workers who are presently in China, South Korea, Iran and Europe (Italy, Spain and Netherlands) and places where there has been extensive local transmission and were planning to return to Seychelles are directed to postpone their return travel until further notice.
- All airlines with inbound flights for Seychelles, are directed not to board any passengers or crew (except returning Seychellois citizens) who have been to China (including the SAR), South Korea, Iran and Europe (Italy, Spain and Netherlands) and places where there has been significant local transmission in the last 14 days.
- All arriving passengers may be subjected to additional health screening upon arrival.
- Any person arriving in Seychelles by sea (except returning Seychellois citizens) will not be allowed to disembark if he/she has been to China, (including the SAR), South Korea, Iran, Europe (Italy, Spain and Netherlands) and places where there has been extensive local transmission in the last 14 days.
- As of March 10, 2020, all cruise ships will not be allowed entry into Seychelles waters until further notice.
- Any marine vessel will not be allowed to enter Seychelles’ waters if any passenger or crew on board has been to China, South Korea, Iran and Europe (Italy, Spain and Netherlands) and places where there has been significant local transmission in the last 14 days.
General advice until further notice:
- Organisers of public events, such as, and not limited to, sporting and entertainment activities, cinemas and fun fairs, are advised to cancel and postpone the event until further notice;
- Churches and faith-based organisations are advised to shorten services, avoid large feasts and celebrations, and also take steps to limit physical contact during services;
- People in general are advised to refrain from participating in public gatherings;
- Members of the public are being strongly advised to refrain from travelling abroad;
- Everyone is encouraged to make a special effort to observe good personal hygiene at all times;
- Avoid going to public places if you have a respiratory condition that is making you cough and sneeze;
- A face mask is only useful if you have respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or runny nose; or you are taking care of a sick person with respiratory illness;
- Practise frequent hand washing with soap (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing); and use hand sanitisers where available;
- Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and dispose of the soiled tissue paper in the rubbish bin immediately; then, wash hands or use alcohol based hand sanitisers;
- All travellers should monitor their health closely for two weeks upon return to Seychelles and seek medical attention promptly if feeling unwell, and also inform their doctor of their travel history; and
- If you have a fever or respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, runny nose), you should wear a face mask and call your clinic for further advice.
WHO continues to emphasise on the need for countries to enhance preparedness to respond to cases and take mitigating measures without creating panic.
Seychelles continues to reinforce its outbreak preparedness and response plan. The department of health wishes to thank all partners and stakeholders for their support and understanding. This advisory will be updated as and when necessary.