Covid-19 situation in Seychelles |16 December 2020
Community transmission most likely or imminent, warns public health
The detection of 15 new Covid-19 cases in the country in less than five days has put public health authorities on high alert, with warning of an imminent threat of community transmission.
Public Health Commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon, yesterday revealed in a press conference at the Sheikh Khalifa Diagnostic Centre that a total of 15 new cases were detected since Friday up to yesterday which brings the total number of Covid-19 cases to 202 locally, and 18 active cases at present.
Among these are two Seychellois ‒ one of whom is a healthcare worker and an Air Seychelles crew member. The public health has identified 20 contacts around the airline crew and 10 contacts with the healthcare worker.
The remaining cases include seven Covid-19 positive cases on a super yacht which arrived on Sunday December 13, three cases detected on a resort on Silhouette and the others are visitors residing at hotel establishments on Mahé.
The Covid-19 clusters on the super yacht, on Silhouette and at a resort on Mahé is said to be “well contained”.
“Nonetheless we are having some difficulties with the contact tracing for the Silhouette group because they moved quite a lot during that time and the records were not properly kept. We are having difficulties contacting people who could have been in contact with the cases,” noted Dr Gedeon. Names of room occupants and visitors were not well recorded and some had not even provided their contact details, explained the public health commissioner.
For this reason, the public health authority is calling on any residents who visited Silhouette from December 9 to 13 to urgently contact the Covid-19 surveillance team.
Additionally, public health is putting a pause on staycations to the resort on Silhouette and the resort will not be able to accommodate visitors who had already booked their stay.
Dr Gedeon explained that the health authorities do not often ‘name and shame’ but noted that the resort on Silhouette has disregarded its standards of procedures and hence its Covid-19 certification or status might be revised.
“It is not the first time this happens at the same resort, we had a case a while back and this is the second occasion. We have to ensure that there is not a third,” said Dr Gedeon.
In regards to the threats of community transmission relating to the Seychellois cases, he said: “It is very possible that other people could have been infected in the community so we feel that community transmission is quite imminent. Right now we can call it local transmission but community transmission is when you get cases that you do not know where the person has been infected. For all intents and purposes one of the Seychellois cases can be classified as a community transmission but we are still gathering information.”
He added that the Air Seychelles crew member, whose case could potentially be a community transmission, last flew out on November 29 after which his five-day Covid-19 test came out negative.
Dr Gedeon stated that the person most likely caught the virus locally since the person also tested negative for antibodies.
“During the last trip, the person did only one hour on ground and the remainder of the time he was in the airplane. Secondly, his antibody test came up negative which indicates that it is a fairly recent infection. If he had been infected since November 29, and he was tested some two days ago, he would have presented with some antibodies or IgM.”
Meanwhile, Dr Gedeon noted that none of the 25 crew members on the super yacht disembarked and interacted with locals since they were tested upon arrival onboard the yacht. Two of the seven Covid-19 positive crew members are at the Family Hospital and the rest remain on the yacht which has been placed under quarantine just outside of Port Victoria.
The yacht set sail from Holland on October 10, travelling to Turkey and Egypt to pick up its crew members. It left its last port of call, Egypt, before reaching Seychelles on December 5.
“We are asking members of the public to take extra precautions, please do your preventive measures[…] I know people are no longer shaking hands but I see a lot of fist bumping, and contacts like these should be avoided,” advised Dr Gedeon.
“Now is more important than ever because the chance for community transmission is very imminent and preventive measures are the only things that will break the chain of transmission.”