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Risk of Covid-19 entry still high | 26 August 2020

. Stricter action against social gathering without preventive measures

 

The total number of active Covid-19 cases in Seychelles as of yesterday afternoon was nine and the risk of the Covid-19 entry into the country is still high.

This was said by Public Health Commissioner Dr Jude Gedeon at the department of health’s bi-weekly press update yesterday afternoon at the Sheikh Khalifa Diagnostic Centre.

Commissioner Gedeon, joined by the chief executive of the Health Care Agency (HCA), Dr Danny Louange, noted that all nine active cases are seafarers who remain in isolation on their respective vessel.

Thus far, since the first two cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Seychelles on March 14, 136 persons have tested positive for the virus, 127 of whom have recovered. A further 59 persons are in quarantine at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay quarantine facility, and an additional two in isolation due to their medical conditions, which is not Covid-19 related.

Despite the fairly low infection rates recorded by the country thus far, Dr Gedeon warned that everybody should remain alert and adhere to health advisories and protocols issued by the department, especially since the risk of Covid-19 entry remains high.

“Even if we categorise lower risk and higher risk countries, there is not a country that carries no risk for the time being. The risk of Covid-19 entry into Seychelles is still existing from entering residents, visitors and crew members,” said Dr Gedeon.

“There is also the risk through unauthorised contact at sea, either through registered fishing vessels or unofficial vessels engaging in activities not related to fishing, for instance traffickers, as we’ve recently seen. Entry is also possible through contaminated cargo and luggage, and it is for that reason that luggage is decontaminated prior to loading on the conveyor, so as to control and limit the risk of entry,” Dr Gedeon stated.

In a bid to limit the risk, the department, as of August 1 and the re-opening of Seychelles International Airport to commercial passenger flights from permitted countries under strict health and safety protocols, conducts assessments of risk countries weekly to keep abreast of the countries’ trend outbreak, testing patterns, potential risk of getting infected in the countries, data available and advisories issued by the countries and concerned international organisations. As of yesterday, inbound and outbound travel is permitted to 28 countries, down from 31 permitted countries last week.

Since August 1, two thousand four hundred and seventy-six (2,476) passengers have landed in Seychelles, comprising 400 plus visitors from the United Arab Emirates, around 380 Seychellois residents, 200 plus from France, and others from different countries including Philippines, Mauritius, Italy and India.

A total of 1,837 departures have been recorded for the same timeframe, with Seychellois constituting the majority of outbound travellers, including students, and others who against advisories to not travel overseas have done so anyway.

A total of 33 persons, 23 patients and 11 attendants, are among the departures recorded. The group left for Sri Lanka on board a chartered flight on August 22 and are in quarantine at the hospital facility at which they will be receiving medical treatment.

With the lifting of the travel ban and the resumption in the movement of air and sea traffic, the department is facing some challenges in reviewing PCR test results and applications for inbound passengers who sometimes fail to file test results on time, or sometimes due to inconsistencies on the part of the airline, complaints of standards of procedure not being observed in numerous public places, as well as in assessing the changing risk status of countries.

The department has also, during the month of August, conducted the most PCR tests, which is expected to increase in the coming months. Over 3,000 PCR tests have been conducted thus far including exit tests required by airlines for outbound travellers and tests on persons in quarantine. To ease the pressure off the department’s laboratory, negotiations are ongoing with two private sector laboratories to help with processing PCR tests, although further details are to be announced in the coming weeks.

In the coming weeks, four further regional test centres are expected to be established, namely in Beau Vallon, Anse Boileau, Anse Royale and English River health centres. As with the Maison Football testing station, it will be a one-stop shop whereby persons, after setting their appointment can be tested, pay for the test and collect results as instructed, said Dr Louange.

Testing facilities are also available on Praslin and La Digue, although the department is looking into alternative methods to transport the samples from the inner islands to the testing lab, and exploring the possibility of doing such through Air Seychelles domestic flights, in keeping with strict health and safety protocols.

In concluding the press update, both Dr Gedeon and Dr Louange appealed for responsible behaviour and adherence to advisories. They highlighted a further challenge in the number of social mass gatherings taking place around the country with no preventive measures. In particular, Dr Gedeon launched another plea to business owners of restaurants, bars and other such social institutions to adhere to the strict health protocols and refrain from organising live events including concerts and others which draw in large crowds. Considering that he has issued warnings to such institutions on numerous occasions prior to yesterday, Dr Gedeon warned that strict action will be taken against businesses that fail to comply through the Seychelles Licensing Authority (SLA).

 

Laura Pillay

 

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