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France's COVID-19 crisis washes up in ocean territories

Anxiety is growing over the coronavirus threat for France's overseas territories, located in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans thousands of kilometres from the mainland, with distance proving no protection for regions with fragile health infrastructure.
Seychelles News Agency

France's COVID-19 crisis washes up in ocean territories

Anxiety is growing over the coronavirus threat for France's overseas territories, located in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans thousands of kilometres from the mainland, with distance proving no protection for regions with fragile health infrastructure. The «Outre-mer» or overseas departments, largely a legacy of the country's colonial past, are considered fully integral to the nation, with inhabitants holding French passports, voting in national elections and sending MPs to the Paris parliament. For many in France, they are best known as easily accessible and French-speaking destinations for holidays in areas resembling paradise. But the coronavirus crisis risks being even more grim there than on the mainland itself, where thousands have died from COVID-19. There have so far been 13 coronavirus deaths in the overseas territories, mainly on the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and St Martin, as well as two victims on the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte. But there is also rising concern about the disease's spread on Reunion in the Indian Ocean, in French Guiana in South America, and on French Polynesia and New Caledonia in the Pacific. France is now sending two helicopter carriers -- the Mistral and the Dixmude -- to the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean to bolster local hospitals and clinics that risk being overwhelmed if the number of cases rises further. The Dixmude left its Mediterranean port Friday morning carrying medical equipment including hand gel and over one million surgical masks for the Antilles, the army said in a statement, though it is not expected to arrive until mid-April. And while the two ships will provide logistical support, they will not be used as hospital ships to take patients on board. «We are following the situation in the overseas territories very closely and we are aware of the fragilities,» government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said this week. «It is a major subject of concern, attention and mobilisation.» - 'Catastrophe' - The remoteness of the territories, coupled with their high poverty and unemployment rates, risks turning any outbreak into full-blown epidemic that could quickly overwhelm health professionals. A source close to discussions between government ministries on containing the crisis, who asked not to be identified by name, told AFP, «It is going to be a catastrophe.» «We feel there is no pilot on board,» Gabriel Serville, an MP for French Guiana, told AFP. «I fear for the worst for a territory that is behind in health terms, with poor areas where social distancing is not possible.» Mayotte, where 82 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, often in shanty towns without running water, is a particular source of concern. «There has been no organisation or preparation,» said Mansour Kamardine, a rightwing MP on the island. «It feels like we're just making it up as we go along.» On France's Pacific island territory of New Caledonia, located east of Australia between New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, early spring is usually a time of celebration for the yam harvesting season. But there is no mood for -- or possibility of -- festivity. Indigenous Melanesians, known locally as Kanaks and counting for 39 percent of the population, already have prevalent health issues, particularly diabetes and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. If the virus were to spread, the impact would be «devastating,» said Georges Mandaoue, a prominent local politician. «I've put all tribal chiefs in charge of explaining the consequences of the virus and the measures to protect everyone,» he told AFP. People are aware of the danger, Mandaoue said, for example cultivating fields while respecting security distances. «They go to the river but not to the sea anymore, and greet each other from far away, without handshakes,» he said. - 'Happened before' - The memory of previous epidemics such as leprosy remains vivid, as do scars from the arrival and colonisation of the island by Europeans, who brought unknown diseases with them that decimated the local populations. «We know that epidemics have happened before, that people had to isolate members of the tribe and not see them before the burial,» said Gilbert Assawa, a tribal chieftain. Regularly scheduled passenger flights between Paris and the overseas territories have been suspended, though cargo transit is continuing. Most of the regions have also imposed lockdowns similar to that of mainland France, and some have also decreed nightly curfews. The government insists that everything is being done to maintain control of the situation. «The systems that have been put in place in the overseas territories match the same criteria and organisation as mainland France,» said Overseas Territories Minister Annick Girardin. © Agence France-Presse

Waters around 2 of Seychelles' outer islands were the final pieces to reach the 30 percent protected threshold

Waters surrounding two outer islands of Seychelles have been designated as marine protected areas to safeguard the ecological value and biodiversity within the territories. As part of the Seychelles' Marine Spatial Plan Initiative, a government-led initiativ
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Waters around 2 of Seychelles' outer islands were the final pieces to reach the 30 percent protected threshold

Waters surrounding two outer islands of Seychelles have been designated as marine protected areas to safeguard the ecological value and biodiversity within the territories. As part of the Seychelles' Marine Spatial Plan Initiative, a government-led initiative following the award-winning debt-for-nature swap, D'Arros island received a zone one designation, and a zone two designation was assigned to St Joseph Atoll. The zone one and zone two designations of the water surrounding these two islands were finalised on March 26, when President Danny Faure, signed a legal document, under which Seychelles legally designated 30 percent of its territorial waters as marine protected areas. This comes 10 years ahead of international targets. Zone one category is a 'high biodiversity protection area' and is designated for the conservation and protection of habitats and species that may be rare, endangered, unique or with narrow distribution ranges. Zone two is a 'medium biodiversity protection and sustainable use and an area where conservation and some level of extraction and sea bed alteration can take place. D'Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll, situated in the most remote reaches of the Amirantes region, are sanctuaries for vulnerable marine animals, including a large aggregation of manta rays and at least 514 fish species. St Joseph Atoll is the most important nursery area on the Amirantes Bank and a critical breeding ground for sharks, rays and turtles.    Mata ray aggregation in the nursery habitats of D'Arros Island and St Joseph Atoll. Photo License: All Rights Reserved According to the Save Our Seas Foundation's project leader, Jeanne Mortimer, «the waters around St Joseph and D'Arros host some of the most intact marine ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean region.» «Because the islands are so remote they have been protected from pollution, coastal development and overfishing for decades. This has made the ecosystem exceptionally resilient. Even after the most widespread and severe coral bleaching event in global history, the reefs around the islands are showing recovery,» continued Mortimer. The chief executive of Save Our Seas Foundation, James Lea, said that the organisation «has been actively engaged in the public review for these new protected areas in the Seychelles and is very pleased to welcome greater security for the marine habitats of this beautiful archipelago.» «The natural wonder of the Seychelles instilled a deep passion for the islands in our Founder and he has made protecting this wonder a core priority for the foundation,» he added.  The Save Our Seas Foundation's D'Arros Research Centre has been active since 2012 and has hosted researchers from around the world. More than 20 targeted research projects have been conducted at D'Arros and St Joseph in collaboration with numerous international institutions, and a new species of fish was even discovered. The centre also supports six long-term programmes, including one of the longest-running turtle-monitoring projects in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The project is being done by Seychellois turtle monitors since 2004 under the management of Mortimer.

Global virus deaths top 60,000, Trump warns 'tough week' ahead

US President Donald Trump has warned Americans to brace for a «very horrendous» number of coronavirus deaths in the coming days as the total number of global fatalities from the pandemic soared past 60,000. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United
Seychelles News Agency

Global virus deaths top 60,000, Trump warns 'tough week' ahead

US President Donald Trump has warned Americans to brace for a «very horrendous» number of coronavirus deaths in the coming days as the total number of global fatalities from the pandemic soared past 60,000. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States on Saturday surpassed 300,000, but Europe continued to bear the brunt of the pandemic which has left roughly half the planet confined at home at a huge cost to the global economy. Over 45,000 of global deaths have been in Europe, with Britain reporting a new daily high in fatalities, taking the overall toll to 4,300 out of nearly 42,000 cases. Queen Elizabeth II is to make a rare, «deeply personal» speech on Sunday to urge people to rise to the challenge posed by the coronavirus, and personally thank frontline healthcare workers. «I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,» she will say, according to extracts released Saturday. There are now more than 1.2 million confirmed cases across the globe, and around 65,000 people have died since the virus first emerged in China late last year, according to a John Hopkins University tally. Trump said the United States was entering «a time that's going to be very horrendous» with «some really bad numbers.» «This will probably be the toughest week,» he said at the White House. «There will be a lot of death.» At the same time, the president stressed the US cannot remain shut down forever. «Mitigation does work but again, we're not going to destroy our country,» he said. «I've said it from the beginning -- the cure cannot be worse than the problem.» The threat from mass gatherings was highlighted again this weekend, this time in Pakistan where authorities are trying to track down and quarantine tens of thousands of worshippers who attended a massive Islamic event last month. More than 150 people who attended have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, with two deaths. Foreigners from several countries also went to the event, which was held despite government requests to cancel it over virus fears. - Tide turning in Italy? - There was some encouraging news from Europe over the weekend. Worst-hit Italy cheered after seeing its number of intensive care virus cases drop for the first time -- from 4,068 on Friday to 3,994 on Saturday. Even some of the most cautious Italian health officials seized on the figures as evidence that the tide may be turning in the deadliest disaster the country has faced since World War II. «This is a very important data point,» said civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli, adding that it «allows our hospitals to breathe.» The daily rise in new infections across Italy has also slowed. It reported 681 new deaths on Saturday, down from a peak of almost 1,000 just over a week ago. Spain, which is under a near-total lockdown, saw a second successive daily fall in coronavirus-related deaths with 809 fatalities. The total number of deaths in Spain now stands at 11,947, second only to Italy. Although the number of new cases also slowed, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced an extension of the country's lockdown until April 25. At a field hospital in Madrid set up at a conference center, staff applauded whenever a patient was healthy enough to be discharged. One of them was 59-year-old builder Eduardo Lopez who gave a «10/10» rating to the staff who cared for him «with tenderness and a great dose of humanity.» - 'We need you' - New York state, the US epicenter, saw a record 630 deaths in a single day and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the worst was yet to come. The state has recorded a total of 3,565 deaths. Cuomo also cautioned that already strained hospitals were not prepared. New York City appealed for licensed medical personnel to volunteer their services. «Anyone who's not already in this fight, we need you,» Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Trump said 1,000 military personnel, mostly doctors and nurses, would be deployed to help in the city, which he described as «the hottest of all the hot spots.» Trump also said he had asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expedite shipments of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug which the US leader has been touting as a coronavirus treatment although clinical trials are still ongoing. «I may take it,» Trump said. «I'll have to ask my doctors about that.» - U-turn on masks - Several Western countries including the US, Germany and France have in recent days encouraged the use of masks in public despite earlier saying that only carers needed to cover their faces. The U-turn has angered and confused some citizens, and spurred a flurry of online tutorials for DIY masks. The advice came after some studies suggested the new coronavirus can be spread through speaking and breathing, not just coughing and sneezing. US authorities said wearing a simple homemade mask or scarf could help stem rocketing infection rates. The World Health Organization is reviewing its guidance but has said it worries that masks could give «a false sense of security,» leading people to be more casual about hand washing and social distancing. © Agence France-Presse

Amid new research, US recommends face masks to stop virus spread

President Donald Trump on Friday recommended that Americans cover their faces with masks when outdoors, a policy U-turn following growing scientific research suggesting their widespread use can stem the spread of the coronavirus. Trump told a White House bri
Seychelles News Agency

Amid new research, US recommends face masks to stop virus spread

President Donald Trump on Friday recommended that Americans cover their faces with masks when outdoors, a policy U-turn following growing scientific research suggesting their widespread use can stem the spread of the coronavirus. Trump told a White House briefing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was urging people to wear face coverings like scarves or homemade cloth masks, but to keep medical-grade masks available for health workers. «It's going to be really a voluntary thing,» he underlined. «You don't have to do it and I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that's okay.» The about-face was widely expected after senior health officials told reporters the scientific evidence had evolved. Speaking to Fox News on Friday, Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, cited «recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing.» Days earlier, the CDC's Robert Redfield said up to a quarter of people who are infected may be asymptomatic. Taken together, the developments represent powerful arguments in favor of the widespread use of facial coverings. Previously, the advice was that masks should only be used by sick people and their caregivers. The new recommendations are in line with those made by France's National Academy of Medicine on Friday, and by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio a day earlier. The city has seen almost 1,000 of the US's nearly 7,000 deaths. But the message was undermined by the fact that none of the officials present at Friday's briefing were following it. Trump said he would not be wearing one «as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know, it somehow, I don't see it for myself.» - Breathing and speaking - Fauci's comments about the virus's spread via breathing came after the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) sent a letter to the White House on April 1 summarizing recent research on the subject. It said that though research isn't yet conclusive, «the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing.» Until now, US health agencies have said the primary pathway of transmission is respiratory droplets, about one millimeter in diameter, expelled by sick people when they sneeze or cough. These quickly fall to the ground around a meter (three feet) away. But if the virus can be suspended in the ultrafine mist people expel when exhaling -- in other words, an aerosol -- it becomes much harder to prevent its spread. - The aerosol debate - A recent NIH-funded study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could become an aerosol and remain airborne for up to three hours. The paper received widespread attention even as critics said the findings were overblown because researchers had used a medical device called a nebulizer to deliberately create a viral mist, something they argued would not occur naturally. The NAS letter pointed to preliminary research by the University of Nebraska Medical Center that found the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, its RNA, in hard-to-reach areas of patients' isolation rooms. The NAS scientists also cited two other studies -- both not yet peer reviewed -- from Hong Kong and mainland China. The Hong Kong researchers had some patients with coronavirus and other viral respiratory illnesses wear masks, while other patients in the study didn't cover their faces. They found fewer droplets and aerosols from coronavirus patients who wore masks. The Chinese paper raised concerns that personal protective gear used by health workers could be a source of airborne virus. The team studied hospitals in Wuhan and found two major areas where the virus was aerosolized: patient bathrooms and rooms where medical staff removed protective gear. This may be because doffing protective gear causes particles to get re-suspended in the air. Even if these particles are not of breathable size, they could settle on people's hands and bodies, the NAS panel said. So far, the World Health Organization has been more cautious on the airborne threat. In an analysis published on March 29, it wrote that aerosol transmission was only known to occur during particular medical treatments that required assisted breathing. © Agence France-Presse

15 nature trails added to Seychelles Parks Authority management; new fees for tourists

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) will manage an additional 15 nature trails on the three main islands. The authority will now manage over 25 trails with added resources endorsed by the cabinet of ministers and the creation of a new unit to over
Seychelles News Agency

15 nature trails added to Seychelles Parks Authority management; new fees for tourists

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) will manage an additional 15 nature trails on the three main islands. The authority will now manage over 25 trails with added resources endorsed by the cabinet of ministers and the creation of a new unit to oversee all trails. As a way of ensuring sustainability and proper management of the trails, the authority is also introducing a fee applicable only for visitors to Seychelles. «The cabinet had recently asked us to relook at nature trails to ensure that they are in order and to come up with a list of official trails.  We had to work with key partners including tourism and the police to finalise the list,» Selby Remie, the chief executive of the authority, told a press conference. Remie added it was in the best interest to update the status of the nature trails on the island nation, areas well appreciated by hiking enthusiasts. «An official trail is one that has been recognised by the authority which has the mandate to manage trails and has endorsed same for public use,» said Remie. To come up with the list was no easy task as staff of the authority had to walk all these trails to determine whether they were safe, accessible and not too isolated. At the end of the exercise some trails though currently being used did not make the list as they were seen as too dangerous, where hikers – especially nonresidents - got lost and in some instance got injured. Seychelles National Parks Authority is also negotiating with some private landowners in the case where trails pass on their lands. Remie also told journalists that the authority has also undertaken works to upgrade trails with welcome and information boards, navigational and direction posts, danger signs, toilets and shelters. In the instance of the Anse Major trail which ends on the beach, visitors will also be able to buy refreshment and snacks. The facilities put in place as part of the upgrade at the Copolia nature trail. (Seychelles National Parks Authority) Photo License: CC-BY «At the Copolia trail, we have now built a toilet and a shelter where they can take refuge from the sun or rain. And hikers will as of July need to pay $7 to hike in the area but the fee is not for Seychellois but only for visitors,» explained Remie. On La Digue – the third most populated island – the business community has come together to maintain the trails and waive off the fee for visitors. And with only one month to go before Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - hosts the first International Nature Trail competition on May 3, SNA asked whether SNPA was ready for the event which will see the participation of over 20 international participants.   «We will be ready as we have put all resources on the trails, earmarked for the competition,» said the chief executive. The competition, which is expected to start early in the morning, will consist of a 25-kilometre run or hike and will start in the western district of Port Glaud. It will go through well-known hiking routes including Anse Major, Mont Le Niol and Congo Rouge before finishing at the neighbouring district of Grand Anse.

Seychelles and COVID-19: 2,000 tourists choose to stay in Seychelles amid scheduled flight shutdown

Nearly 2,000 tourists opted to remain in Seychelles as airlines carry out their last flights to repatriate stranded foreigners amid the COVID-19 outbreak, said a government official. The mostly European visitors on holiday in Seychelles were left stranded af
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: 2,000 tourists choose to stay in Seychelles amid scheduled flight shutdown

Nearly 2,000 tourists opted to remain in Seychelles as airlines carry out their last flights to repatriate stranded foreigners amid the COVID-19 outbreak, said a government official. The mostly European visitors on holiday in Seychelles were left stranded after restriction were made on international travel and numerous flights by international airlines serving the Europe-Seychelles route were suspended. The principal secretary for Immigration, Alain Volcere, told SNA that the local authorities will accommodate the tourists who have decided to remain in Seychelles, considering that the pandemic is affecting many countries. «Since we understand there are no flights, we have decided to facilitate their stay in the country. As it has been said, they evaluated the situation before making their decision to stay, so we are being understanding during this difficult time,» he said. The Immigration Department said there were 1,999 foreign visitors in Seychelles as of April 1. The last chartered flight to repatriate visitors from Seychelles to Europe was on March 31. The Air Belgium flight was operated by the European Union and the French government in coordination with the local French Embassy and British High Commission. The French ambassador to Seychelles, Dominique Mas, said an announcement was placed on their website calling on European citizens who wanted to return to their country and were having difficulties to do so, to contact their local embassies. Altogether 156 European citizens responded to their call. The French ambassador, the British High Commissioner, as well as the Honorary Consuls of Belgium and Germany, were present at the Seychelles international airport to see the passengers off. «I would like to thank everyone for this excellent gesture of solidarity. Thank you to the teams at the Seychelles airport,» said Mas in a post on social media. An article published on the European Union (EU) official page confirmed that the flight to Paris, France, carried 156 tourists from 10 different countries. These included France, Germany, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. The repatriation flight was done by the EU member states with the support from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Through this mechanism, the EU contributes to the organisation of repatriation and covers part of transport costs. The passengers were charged 750 euros per head. A dozen airlines suspended their flights to Seychelles during the month of March as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect countries globally. Since March 25 Seychelles has banned any passenger arriving from any country on airlines or marine vessels (except returning Seychellois citizens) to the island nation. All airlines with inbound flights to the country and all marine vessels are directed not to board any passengers or crew from any countries (except returning Seychellois citizens). To date, the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean has recorded 10 positive cases of COVID-19. The patients are six Seychellois and four foreigners and they are all at the isolation treatment centre at Perseverance.

In Mauritius, a rush as supermarkets open after 10 days

Residents of the Indian Ocean island nation Mauritius rushed to supermarkets on Thursday after they had been shut for 10 days under a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Mauritius, usually a paradise holiday destination known for pristine beache
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In Mauritius, a rush as supermarkets open after 10 days

Residents of the Indian Ocean island nation Mauritius rushed to supermarkets on Thursday after they had been shut for 10 days under a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Mauritius, usually a paradise holiday destination known for pristine beaches and coral reefs, has the most cases in eastern Africa with 169 infected and seven deaths -- including a 20-year-old woman with no prior health issues who died on Thursday.  The country was one of the first in Africa to impose a lockdown on March 20 -- when cases still stood at seven -- going so far as to shut supermarkets, bakeries and other shops often kept open in other nations. Aware that people's stocks were starting to run low, the government decided to re-open under strict rules which divide people into three alphabetical groups to decide on which days they are allowed to shop. Prakash Beeharry, a primary school teacher, told AFP he was lucky his surname starts with a 'B'. «My neighbour, Mr Jayen Veerasamy, has to wait two more days before he can access the supermarket,» he said. Like many other mask-wearing shoppers, Beeharry stood in line from 6am to 10am before he was allowed in the supermarket. «We only had 30 minutes to get all the groceries. Quite a challenge. I'm 45 years old and I've never experienced this... I hope things don't get worse.» Snaking long lines spread out from different supermarkets on the island, where shoppers kept a safe distance from each other and had their temperatures taken as they entered the stores. «I feel relieved now that I have some supplies,» said retired citizen Joseph who was one of the first at the Intermart in central Curepipe. Other rules put in place allow only one member of a family in the store at a time, and masks are obligatory. The purchase of basics such as rice, flour, milk or oil are subject to restrictions. Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth had initially shut the supermarkets because the situation was «extremely serious» and he saw the move as «the only way to stop the spread of the virus». The decision was widely criticised, as while the middle and upper classes were able to prepare and stock food, the poor were not -- and many had yet to receive their salaries. Tourism Minister Joe Lesjongard explained Tuesday that the government was «aware the population is starting to lack supplies».  «We should never have shut the supermarkets,» said former prime minister and prominent opposition leader Paul Berenger. In a bid to assist the poorest members of society, the government has distributed basic necessities to some 30,000 people. A solidarity fund has also been created by government officials, with all lawmakers donating ten percent of their annual salaries. Hotels on the island are now mostly empty, aside from a handful used as quarantine centres, while the renowned smiles of tourism staff have been replaced by the exhausted, defeated expressions of health workers.  © Agence France-Presse

Rapid COVID-19 tests being carried out in Seychelles for people exiting 14-day isolation period

Rapid tests for COVID-19 are being carried out at the Four Seasons Resort in Seychelles, as the 14-day quarantine period for people in isolation there comes to an end, a health official said on Thursday. «We have received new rapid test kits which we a
Seychelles News Agency

Rapid COVID-19 tests being carried out in Seychelles for people exiting 14-day isolation period

Rapid tests for COVID-19 are being carried out at the Four Seasons Resort in Seychelles, as the 14-day quarantine period for people in isolation there comes to an end, a health official said on Thursday. «We have received new rapid test kits which we are testing at the hotel. We carried out our first tests yesterday at Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay. This is a blood test and we have tested a total of 97 people and up until now all the results came out non-reactive,» said Meggy Louange, the director-general of the Public Health Authority. Louange told a press conference that the tests the authority has recently received are not the same as the one used to confirm if a person is positive or not. «It is a screening test, which means that should we get any reaction when using the test, we will definitely proceed to PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test where we use the throat swab to confirm if the person is positive with COVID-19,» she explained. Last week, the Department of Health received a consignment of PCR tests from the Jack Ma Ali Baba Foundation. In addition, Intelvision -- a local telecommunication company -- on Monday donated 25,000 rapid test kits to be used on three categories of persons: those in quarantine, infected persons in isolation, and health care workers and other professionals at ports of entry who may have been exposed to infected persons. Since the epidemic started, the Seychelles' Department of Health has carried out 204 tests out of which 10 were positive. Nine of the patients are in stable conditions and one is still in a critical state, gradually improving. «We are now in the process to test the positive patients so as to carry out procedures to discharge them. On Saturday April 4, it will be three weeks since our first case was reported,» said Louange. As of April 1, on the main island of Mahe, there are 89 patients under quarantine at Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort in the north, 16 in quarantine at Perseverance and 133 in home quarantine. There are five on home quarantine on Praslin.  

Libya marks year of fighting, fears worse to come

While the world is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, war-shattered Libya marks one year Saturday of its latest bloody conflict that is plunging it ever deeper into chaos. Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and others have fuelled the fighting in th
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Libya marks year of fighting, fears worse to come

While the world is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, war-shattered Libya marks one year Saturday of its latest bloody conflict that is plunging it ever deeper into chaos. Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and others have fuelled the fighting in the oil-rich but poverty-stricken North African nation where hundreds have been killed and over 150,000 displaced. Medical experts warn that Libya is at heightened risk of the fast-spreading COVID-19 illness, given the deteriorated public health system in the gateway country for desperate Europe-bound migrants. As much of the world has hunkered down, militias in the south of the capital Tripoli have kept firing bullets, mortars and grenades at each other, the explosions echoing across the city. Libya has been gripped by chaos for almost a decade, since longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi was brought down and killed in a 2011 uprising backed by several Western powers. It is now split between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched his offensive to try to capture the capital on April 4 last year. One year on, and several failed ceasefires later, «we are simply witnessing the decimation of a nation», said analyst Jalel Harchaoui of the Clingendael Institute in The Hague. The United Nations' envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, threw in the towel in early March following the repeated failure of efforts to restore order, although he said his resignation was for health reasons. A Berlin summit in late January saw Moscow, Ankara and other foreign players engaged in Libya pledge to respect an arms embargo and support a truce. But barely 10 days later, Salame was denouncing violations and a continuous influx of foreign arms and mercenaries. - 'Existential battle' - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly sent military equipment and fighters to the GNA. Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have meanwhile supported what Haftar claims is a campaign against jihadist «terrorists» and «criminals». As Haftar's offensive has so far failed to take Tripoli, said Harchaoui, Erdogan's government has been able «to increase its presence and influence in the Libyan capital». In recent months, Erdogan sent hundreds of pro-Turkish Syrian fighters to battle the pro-Haftar forces, who are supported by Russian mercenaries Moscow denies having sent. Armed groups from western Libya are fighting Haftar forces «in an existential battle», said Wolfram Lacher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. «Haftar's forces are notorious for looting and summary executions, and they include groups that are motivated by a thirst for revenge against entire communities,» he said. «The fear of war crimes, of collective punishment, of marginalisation under dictatorial rule means that the forces fighting against Haftar won't give up easily. » Fighting has intensified in recent days, despite the latest pledges by both sides to accept UN and international calls for a humanitarian truce to help contain the coronavirus. The international community's «distraction linked to COVID-19 has accelerated and exacerbated this escalation which, in any case, was inevitable,» said Harchaoui. Libya has confirmed just a handful of cases so far, but the UN aid agency OCHA has warned it is «at high risk of the spread of COVID-19 given its levels of insecurity, weak health system and high numbers of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons». - 'Situation unbearable' - A few days ago, the GNA even announced a counter-offensive paradoxically named «peace storm». Fighting is still concentrated south of Tripoli and east of the coastal city of Misrata, after pro-Haftar forces in early January captured Sirte, some 250 kilometres (150 miles) away. Fears of war and disease have piled on misery for the displaced, such as Fatma Khairi, who has taken refuge in a school building in the working class district of Abu Slim, in the south of Tripoli. «I have a lot of trouble with the communal toilets where often there is no water or soap,» she told AFP. «My family and I live in dramatic conditions that I can hardly describe to you. The situation has become unbearable.» The humanitarian situation is likely to deteriorate as the world faces a deep economic crisis and a further slump in the price of oil, Libya's main source of income. Pro-Haftar forces have already shuttered the country's main oil fields and production has come to a virtual standstill. A political resolution to the conflict seems remote, said both Lacher and Harchaoui, who agreed that the international community would have to pressure the outside powers, especially the United Arab Emirates. «If no Western state agrees to contradict the UAE even a little, an even more serious deterioration of the conflict will be inevitable,» said Harchaoui. Lacher judged that for now «Western states are not ready to exert meaningful pressure on Haftar and the UAE. As long as this is the case, the prospects for a political solution are virtually non-existent.» © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: 8 measures taken by the island nation to protect its people

COVID-19 has swept across the globe, forcing governments to shut down travel and order citizens to stay at home to try to keep the spread from growing larger. Already there are more than 700,000 confirmed cases with more than 33,000 deaths globally from the i
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: 8 measures taken by the island nation to protect its people

COVID-19 has swept across the globe, forcing governments to shut down travel and order citizens to stay at home to try to keep the spread from growing larger. Already there are more than 700,000 confirmed cases with more than 33,000 deaths globally from the infectious disease. Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – recorded its first case on March 12, and to date, there are ten confirmed cases. SNA brings you 8 measures taken by the island nation to try to keep the COVID numbers as low as possible in Seychelles.   Travel ban to China and on Chinese nationals The outbreak of the COVID-19 had its source in the province of Wuhan in China. As the epidemic quickly spread, China started to close its borders. The world responded with travel bans to China. Seychelles took the decision not to allow Seychellois to travel to China to except for returning Chinese residents on January 29. This was after the local authority had released a travel advisory banning Chinese nationals from entering the islands.   (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY   Ban and early closure of cruise ship season On March 9, Seychelles announced that it is temporarily closing down the island nation to cruise ships, bringing an early close to the season. Authorities later expanded the measures to include foreign yachts and pleasure crafts which are also not allowed in Seychelles’ waters.     (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   Closure of schools As of March 16, public schools on the main island of Mahe - where the first cases of COVID-19 were recorded - closed. The measure was first imposed for 14 days. The island nation’s four private schools, including one on the second-most populated island of Praslin, also closed. The Ministry of Education through the schools made available different resource materials so that students could continue to study at home. These are also available online.   (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   Ban on all European visitors Ramping up its response to COVID-19, Seychelles imposed a ban on visitors from Europe, and on Mayotte and Reunion -- two French overseas departments in the Indian Ocean on March 18. The decision was a blow for the tourism sector as Europeans mainly from Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland are the top markets for Seychelles.   (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   Ban on overseas travels for all Seychellois On March 23, the head of state-imposed a one-month travel ban on all Seychellois except for medical emergencies. The new measures came at a time when Seychelles had recorded seven cases of COVID-19. Earlier that month the government had imposed a measure banning all of its employees from travelling abroad for official missions.   ( Seychelles Nation/SCAA) Photo License: CC-BY   Closure of all educational institutions, daycare centres and childminders Effective March 23, all educational institutions on the islands closed until further notice. These included the 25 primary and 11 secondary state schools on all three main islands. Four private schools, all post-secondary institutions and other establishments of higher learning such as the Guy Morel Institute and the University of Seychelles also closed. All daycare centres and childminders had to also abide by the new measure.   (Excel Childminding) Photo License: All Rights Reserved   Ban on public and religious gatherings including funeral services A measure that has impacted the whole nation as all public gatherings including sporting events were called off. In a country where the main religion is Christianity a complete ban on all religious gatherings also took effect in March. The Catholic Church went further by banning all church funeral services. The Anglican is still maintaining funerals but with a shorter 30 minutes service. The two mosques, as well as the Hindu temple, have also seized all worships.     (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   Obligatory quarantine for all returning residents All returning citizens have no choice but to go into quarantine, one of the stricter measures imposed by the Public Health Authority to contain COVID-19 and prevent community transmissions. There are currently three main quarantine facilities on the main island of Mahe at Perseverance, Beau Vallon and Roche Caiman. Another facility is expected to become operational soon at the defence forces academy. On the second-most populated island of Praslin, Seychelles’ Pension Fund holiday apartments have been earmarked for quarantine.   (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Coronavirus the worst global crisis since WW II, says UN chief Health

The coronavirus pandemic is the worst global crisis since World War II, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday, expressing concern that it could trigger conflicts around the world. Guterres said that the scale of the crisis was due to «a di
Seychelles News Agency

Coronavirus the worst global crisis since WW II, says UN chief Health

The coronavirus pandemic is the worst global crisis since World War II, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday, expressing concern that it could trigger conflicts around the world. Guterres said that the scale of the crisis was due to «a disease that represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past.» «The combination of the two facts and the risk that it contributes to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict are things that make us believe that this is the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War,» he told reporters. The New York-based United Nations was founded at the end of the war in 1945 and has 193 member states. «A stronger and more effective response... is only possible in solidarity if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake,» Guterres added. More than 40,000 people have been killed so far as the disease spreads across the world, and causes economic devastation. «We are far from having a global package to help the developing world to create the conditions both to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic consequences,» Guterres warned, pointing to unemployment, the collapse of small firms and vulnerable people in the informal economy. «We are slowly moving in the right direction, but we need to speed up, and we need to do much more if we want to defeat the virus.» The UN on Tuesday created a new fund to help developing countries after last week appealing for donations for poor and conflict-hit nations. Beyond traditional aid from rich countries «we need to have innovative financial instruments,» so that developing nations are able to respond to the crisis, Guterres said. He warned that the coronavirus outbreak could return from poorer countries, especially in Africa, to hit wealthy countries again, and that millions could die.] © Agence France-Presse

Justice of Appeal is appointed as acting president of the Court of Appeal of Seychelles

Anthony Fernando, a Justice of Appeal in Seychelles, has been appointed as the acting President of the Court of Appeal with immediate effect, State House said on Tuesday. Fernando, who was sworn in as Justice of the Court of Appeal in December 2015, has a la
Seychelles News Agency

Justice of Appeal is appointed as acting president of the Court of Appeal of Seychelles

Anthony Fernando, a Justice of Appeal in Seychelles, has been appointed as the acting President of the Court of Appeal with immediate effect, State House said on Tuesday. Fernando, who was sworn in as Justice of the Court of Appeal in December 2015, has a law degree from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Justice Fernando will act as the President of the Court of Appeal until a substantive appointment to the post is finalised. His acting appointment follows the recommendations of the Constitutional Appointments Authority. The post of the President of the Court of Appeal has been vacant since the retirement of Justice Francis MacGregor on January 26. As the acting President of the Court of Appeal, Fernando will sit with two other Justices of Appeal when hearing cases which are done in three sessions in a year.

Seychelles and COVID-19: President shows support for security forces, gets update on response plans

The president of Seychelles on Tuesday met with high officials of Seychelles’ army and the police force to get a comprehensive view of preparations being made by the disciplinary forces amid COVID-19. In his capacity as Chief Commander of the force, Presid
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: President shows support for security forces, gets update on response plans

The president of Seychelles on Tuesday met with high officials of Seychelles’ army and the police force to get a comprehensive view of preparations being made by the disciplinary forces amid COVID-19. In his capacity as Chief Commander of the force, President Danny Faure was given latest information regarding new security measures and his call to the Seychelles People's Defence Forces to assist the police in ensuring that measures are being respected and enforced. As of March 23, a state of public health emergency was declared in the island nation and in national address days prior Faure announced a series of enforcement measures focused on strengthening the country’s borders, restricting public gatherings and minimizing social contact in an effort to prevent community transmission of COVID-19. In a presentation at the Maritime Operations Centre of the Seychelles Coast Guard, Captain Dave Mathieu, responsible for operations, explained that the army has been assisting different operations in the community. «We now have officers assisting the police, on all three main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue,» said Mathieu. Major Alain Pierre gave an overview of human resources and the requirement of the force during the current situation as some officers are in quarantine - after they arrived from abroad - whilst others are on overseas training. Pierre told the president about their efforts to get the assistance of ex-soldiers to assist in their operations and has given assurances that for now, the force can manage with the personnel they have. Gerald Wong-Pool explained the aim of the Joint Operations set up for COVID-19 by the coast guard and gave different demonstrations on the Maritime Domain Awareness as well as the daily routine and maritime security interventions to secure the country’s borders both by air and sea. At the Central Police Headquarters Faure met with key members of the COVID-19 Police Operations Centre set up specifically for the public health emergency. During the meeting, the head of state was briefed on the mode of operation of the centre, assets and equipment available and the ongoing strategy to ensure the measures announced in light of the COVID-19 are being respected by the public. At the police headquarters, President Faure was briefed on the mode of operation of the centre. (Louis Toussaint) Photo License: CC-BY  “We are working closely with health and we are going to execute any requests from them,” Ted Barbe, Deputy Commissioner of the Seychelles Police, told journalists. Barbe added that the joint operations and coordination centre which is more than a command centre is not yet operational but all is set if the need arises. Barbe explained that police is depending on members of the public to ensure that laws are abided to and that citizens keep it in mind that the country is in a state of public health emergency and that illegal activity should be reported. On his part, Faure thanked the disciplinary forces for their invaluable service, and for the work they are doing alongside other key agencies and partners: “Today I would like to also reiterate our continuous support to you all as we continue to work together to ensure the safety of our country and its people,” said President Faure. The president of Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – on behalf of all Seychellois saluted and conveyed " deepest appreciation to all our men and women in uniform for your hard work and dedication to the country in this time of emergency. The nation is grateful for your efforts.”

Batons, bullying and handcuffs mar Africa's virus shutdowns

Soldiers tower over youngsters in South Africa's Soweto township, forcing them to do push-ups and roll on the floor as punishment for not adhering to a lockdown meant to halt the spread of coronavirus. Caught on camera and circulated on social media, they ad
Seychelles News Agency

Batons, bullying and handcuffs mar Africa's virus shutdowns

Soldiers tower over youngsters in South Africa's Soweto township, forcing them to do push-ups and roll on the floor as punishment for not adhering to a lockdown meant to halt the spread of coronavirus. Caught on camera and circulated on social media, they added to a string of videos purporting to show violence by security forces deployed to enforce curfew and confinement across Africa. Rubber bullets, tear gas and whips have been used to maintain social distancing in shopping queues and to discipline citizens caught outside their homes without valid reason. «It seems to be the only way in which authorities know how to deal with the populace, through violence and humiliation,» said Amnesty International's Shenilla Mohamed, executive director for South Africa, adding that abuse had also been reported from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria. South African police are investigating the deaths of three citizens allegedly killed by patrols for defying the lockdown, which came into force last Friday. «That's almost the same amount of people that have died from coronavirus,» noted Mohamed, referring to the nation’s latest death toll of five. One person was allegedly shot by police on his way home from a bar -- a direct breach of regulations prohibiting the sale of alcohol during the 21-day shutdown. Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has condemned the reported heavyhandedness and vowed to withdraw soldiers caught abusing their powers. - Intimidation tactics - To date coronavirus has infected more than 5,690 people in Africa and killed at least 195, according to an AFP tally. The pandemic has been slow to reach the continent, despite an acceleration in recent weeks, and numbers remain relatively low compared to other parts of the world. Dozens of African governments have made use of the extra time to roll out curfews and shutdowns earlier than their worse-hit counterparts in the West. But such measures are difficult to enact in countries where most people live in poverty and work informally, often in packed urban slums with little access to sanitation. «If we take measures which starve everybody, they will quickly end up being defied,» said Benin's President Patrica Talon on Sunday, adding that his country lacked the means to enforce public confinement. As governments have struggled to keep citizens indoors, their security forces have been quick to fall back on intimidation tactics, raising widespread concern. «It is unacceptable to see such inhuman and degrading treatment against the population,» tweeted Nicolas Simard, Canada's ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in response to a video of masked policemen beating a young man to the ground in the capital Kinshasa, which went into lockdown last week. - 'Excessive' and 'detestable' - «This is uncalled for and inappropriate,» tweeted Mombasa governor Hassan Joho after police charged hundreds of commuters waiting for a ferry in Kenya’s port city. Clad in riot gear, they fired tear gas at the crowd before the start of a dusk-to-dawn curfew, forcing people to the ground and whipping them. The Mombasa Law Society denounced the police intervention as «excessive» and «detestable». Uganda's army meanwhile apologised for a «high-handed» response after security forces violently cleared the streets in the capital Kampala, causing an outcry. In a separate incident, two men were hospitalised after being shot by police for violating a restriction on public transport. Footage from Senegal surfaced last week showing policemen beating people found outside after a night curfew. In one video, officials force three young men to do squats after they were caught exercising at night. «No torture, no inhuman degrading treatment and no excessive use of force,» pleaded Amnesty International's former West and Central Africa director Alioune Tine. Police eventually assured that all «excessive interventions» had been punished. - Innocent victims - Yet the risk of a beating has done little to stop citizens across the continent from pursuing their daily activities. The need to make a living trumps both fears of catching the deadly virus and encountering the police, prompting law enforcement officers to step up their show of force. More than 1,100 people have been arrested for lockdown violations in South Africa, while Ivory Coast has detained 450 for failing to respect curfew. Ivorian Human Rights Movement (MIDH) chief Doumbia Yacouba said many of the detainees had been beaten and mistreated. «It is unacceptable and it adds to the psychosis created by coronavirus,» he said. Further cause for concern emerged when Kenyan police called for an inquiry into the death of a 13-year old boy felled by a bullet allegedly fired by police as they cleared a slum area last week. In South Africa, three young children were wounded when security officials allegedly opened fire against a man. Human Rights Watch has called for urgent investigations into all abuse allegations and «disproportionate» use of force. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles' government to present amended budget due to COVID-19 to National Assembly next week

The Seychelles' government will present an amended budget 2020 to the National Assembly next week, after the session on Tuesday was prematurely adjourned. The opposition majority in the National Assembly voted against the suspension of the standing order fo
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles' government to present amended budget due to COVID-19 to National Assembly next week

The Seychelles' government will present an amended budget 2020 to the National Assembly next week, after the session on Tuesday was prematurely adjourned. The opposition majority in the National Assembly voted against the suspension of the standing order for a second reading which would have allowed the finance minister, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, to present the budget. The vote was taken after the Leader of Government Business, Charles De Commarmond, presented a motion to suspend the standing order which allows for seven days from the first reading to the second reading. «The position of the government is that we will wait for seven days which is the required time before second reading. On the order paper of the National Assembly the amendment that we are proposing to the appropriation bill 2020 is still on,» Loustau-Lalanne told a press conference. The amended budget was announced by President Danny Faure on March 20 as part of the government measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. «In light of these exceptional times, the government will present a new budget for 2020 on 31 March. Our priorities have changed. I call upon the National Assembly to approve this new budget,» the President said. The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Wavel Ramkalawan, said that amending the appropriation act is not the correct way for the government to seek additional fund it needs. «We are in a situation where it's true that the government is seeking additional funds specifically in relation to the COVID-19. It wants to raise money it doesn't have and which has not been budgeted. In this case, isn't a supplementary appropriation the procedure to use to get the additional fund from the consolidated fund?» asked Ramkalawan. «This will mean that we can touch specifically the areas in relation to the objectives we want to attain and furthermore it will ensure that this is within our legal procedures,» he added. Loustau-Lalanne said that all legal advice sought showed that amending the appropriation bill 2020 is the best way especially as revenue is also included and these need to be removed from the different heads in the budget. He added that this will be explained when the budget is presented next week.   «I will turn up at the National Assembly next Tuesday 2nd April for me to deliver my budget speech and we can then start discussing the details where I expect there is going to be some important deliberation s with regards to the measures we are proposing,» said Loustau-Lalanne. On the question as to whether the postponement to next week will cause a delay in the budget implementation, he said: «We have an approved budget over 9 billion rupees for 2020 so we will continue to utilise these funds as appropriate and report back to the National Assembly as is required by law.»

Seychelles to guarantee market for fishermen, to help ensure food supply, official says

Seychelles will help local artisanal fishermen find a market for their catch to ensure food security in the country, the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture says. «Under the plan, we want to make sure that our artisanal fishermen continue to fish an
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles to guarantee market for fishermen, to help ensure food supply, official says

Seychelles will help local artisanal fishermen find a market for their catch to ensure food security in the country, the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture says. «Under the plan, we want to make sure that our artisanal fishermen continue to fish and we know that at the moment they are having difficulties selling their catch. Under the plan we need to make sure that there is a guaranteed market for them to sell their fish at reasonable prices,» the minister, Charles Bastienne, told a news conference Monday. To be eligible to participate in the programme, fishermen have to be registered with the Seychelles Fisheries Authority (SFA). Processors to whom the fishermen will be selling their catch will also have to register with the authority. Each fish type will be sold to processors at a pre-agreed-upon price, which will later be processed into different products. These products will be sold to the Seychelles Trading Company (STC), who will, in turn, be responsible to supply retailers, ensuring fish products are available in shops. Bastienne added that the three-month plan to be revised according to change in the COVID-19 crisis is essentially aimed at artisanal fishermen. According to the website of the fishing authority, artisanal fishery is characterised by a wide variety of boats using different gears and catching various species within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Bastienne said, «Under the plan we need to make sure that there is a guaranteed market for them to sell their fish at reasonable prices.» (Thomas Meriton) Photo License: CC-BY  All the artisanal fishing vessels target demersal resources such as snappers, groupers, Indian mackerel, rabbitfish, emperors, barracuda and jackfish. Normally, the catches are supplied demand on the local market including hotels and restaurants and some species are designated for the export market. Bastienne said there are about 500 fishing vessels involved in artisanal fishing in the country, employing about 1,500 people. «On a monthly basis, we catch about 400 tonnes of demersal fish. Fifty percent of the 400-tonne would normally have been sold to hotels and restaurants and the other 50 was being consumed by the population,» said Bastienne. With most hotels having halted their operation and restaurant seeing a decrease in customers due to the pandemic, some fishermen have lost a market for their catch. The Chairman of the Fishermen and Boat Owners Association (FBOA), Beatty Hoarau, said he is satisfied with the programme the government has put in place. He added that he has made sure to bring forward all the concerns of artisanal fishermen as. «The main problem that we had was that fishermen need to get back to work. We discussed with the minister on how we can resolve this problem. We have established a price that we consider to be reasonable at which fishermen can sell their catch,» said Hoarau. «All the industries are in a crisis and it is normal for us to come together and find how we are going to survive during this crisis. I am happy that we have addressed the cost of operation that enables a vessel to go out to sea,» he continued. All artisanal fishermen participating in the programme will get ice at half the price that it is selling at the moment, going from SCR30 for 60 kilos to SCR15 for the same amount. «Secondly, fishermen have told us that bait today sells at SCR 15 a kilo. SFA will come in and will be the authority responsible to sell bait and we do not expect the price to be higher than SCR5 per kilo. Combined, this will help bring down the price of operation for the fishermen. I've been told that the cost of ice and bait amount to about 40 to 45 percent of operational cost,» said Bastienne. The minister expects artisanal fishermen to go out to sea before the end of the week.

Great Pyramid in Egypt lights up in solidarity against virus

Egypt's famed Great Pyramid was emblazoned Monday evening with messages of unity and solidarity with those battling the novel coronavirus the world over. «Stay safe», «Stay at home» and «Thank you to those keeping us safe,»
Seychelles News Agency

Great Pyramid in Egypt lights up in solidarity against virus

Egypt's famed Great Pyramid was emblazoned Monday evening with messages of unity and solidarity with those battling the novel coronavirus the world over. «Stay safe», «Stay at home» and «Thank you to those keeping us safe,» flashed in blue and green lights across the towering structure at the Giza plateau, southwest of the capital Cairo. Egypt has so far registered 656 COVID-19 cases, including 41 deaths. Of the total infected, 150 reportedly recovered. «The tourism sector is one of the most affected industry but our priority is health,» said tourism and antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani, speaking at the site. Senior antiquities ministry official Mostafa al-Waziri thanked «all the medical staff who help to keep us safe.» Egypt has carried out sweeping disinfection operations at archaeological sites, museums and other sites across the country. In tandem, strict social distancing measures were imposed to reduce the risk of contagion among the country's 100 million inhabitants. Tourist and religious sites are shuttered, schools are closed and air traffic halted. Authorities have also declared a night-time curfew and threatened penalties including fines and even prison. On Monday, the interior ministry said hundreds were arrested for violating curfew orders. It was not immediately clear if they were later released. The World Health Organization has commended Egypt's response to the pandemic as «strong and adapted to the situation». But it called on the Arab world's most populous country to boost hospital resources to better prepare for potential wider transmission. The novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic on March 11. It originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has so far spread in 183 countries. Over 727,000 people have been infected and more than 34,000 have died worldwide, according to a tally compiled by AFP. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: 2 new positive cases confirmed, brings total to 10

Seychelles has two new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of positive cases to 10, the Department of Health said on Monday. Two Seychellois residents who were in quarantine at the Beau Vallon quarantine facility tested positive for COVID
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: 2 new positive cases confirmed, brings total to 10

Seychelles has two new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of positive cases to 10, the Department of Health said on Monday. Two Seychellois residents who were in quarantine at the Beau Vallon quarantine facility tested positive for COVID-19. They both were showing symptoms earlier in the day and were transferred to the Isolation Centre at Family Hospital in Perseverance for treatment. The two individuals travelled to Seychelles on separate flights, the first arrived on March 26 on British Airways and the second arrived from the United Kingdom on the Ethiopian Airline on March 29. Following these results, the Department of Health is making appropriate follow up and conducting contact tracing.

Millions of Nigerians enter lockdown as Africa tries to halt virus

More than 20 million Nigerians on Monday went into lockdown in sub-Saharan Africa's biggest city Lagos and the capital Abuja, as the continent struggles to curb the spread of coronavirus. President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a two-week «cessation of all
Seychelles News Agency

Millions of Nigerians enter lockdown as Africa tries to halt virus

More than 20 million Nigerians on Monday went into lockdown in sub-Saharan Africa's biggest city Lagos and the capital Abuja, as the continent struggles to curb the spread of coronavirus. President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a two-week «cessation of all movements» in key cities to ward off an explosion of cases in Africa's most populous country. Businesses are being closed, non-food shops shut and people required to stay at home as officials look to track down possible carriers of the disease after reporting 131 confirmed cases and two deaths so far. Enforcing the restrictions in sprawling Lagos will be a mammoth challenge as millions live crammed into slums and rely on daily earnings to survive. In the ramshackle outdoor markets of Lagos Island, anxious locals complained they did not have the money to stock up, while at higher-end supermarkets better-off residents queued to buy supplies. «Two weeks is too long. I don't know how we will cope,» said student Abdul Rahim, 25, as he helped his sister sell foodstuffs from a stall in Jankarra market. «People are hungry and they won't be able to stock food.» City officials have pledged to provide basic provisions to 200,000 households but the central government in Africa's largest oil producing nation is already facing financial strain as the price of crude has collapsed. The streets of Ghana's capital Accra were also empty as most people in two regions appeared to be following a presidential order to stay indoors after it went into force. - Zimbabwe locks down - Dozens of African nations have imposed restrictions ranging from night-time curfews to total shutdowns. Zimbabwe, which is already suffering a recession, began enforcing a three-week lockdown after the disease left one person dead and infected six others. Police mounted checkpoints on routes leading to Harare's central business district, stopping cars and turning away pedestrians who had no authorisation to be in the area. «We don't want to see people here on the streets. We don't want to see people who have no business in town just loitering,» a policewoman said through a loud hailer. «Everyone to their homes.» Some people were trying to head for villages. «We would rather spend the 21 days at our rural home, where we don't have to buy everything. I can't afford to feed my family here when I am not working,» said Most Jawure. «We have been waiting here for more than two hours but there are no buses,» Jawure told AFP while standing with his wife and daughter beside a bulging suitcase. For many of Zimbabwe's 16 million people, the lockdown means serious hardship. With the unemployment rate estimated at around 90 percent, most Zimbabweans have informal jobs to eke out a living and few have substantial savings. As a similar scenario played out in other poor nations, the UN on Monday called for a $2.5-trillion aid package to help developing countries weather the pandemic, including debt cancellation and a health recovery «Marshall Plan». - 'A matter of time' - Experts warn that Africa is highly vulnerable to COVID-19 given the weak state of health systems across the continent. The number of infections lags far behind Europe but testing has been limited and the figures are growing rapidly. Angola and Ivory Coast on Sunday became the latest countries to record their first deaths, bringing the number of African fatalities to around 150 of nearly 4,800 recorded cases. In Democratic Republic of Congo, two new cases were reported in the volatile South Kivu region and an adviser to the nation's president announced he had tested positive. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ordered a 14-day lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the disease after reporting 33 infections. Police in South Sudan, one of a few nations in Africa yet to confirm a case, enforced strict new rules, shutting shops selling non-essential items and limiting passengers in public transport. Mauritius, which has 128 cases -- the highest in East Africa -- has extended its lockdown to April 15. South Africa's defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Monday denounced alleged intimidation by security forces after videos emerged showing some forcing civilians to squat or roll on the ground for allegedly violating restrictions. In an interview with local Newzroom Afrika television channel, she said she was aware of two videos «which have circulated where clearly there (is) some abuse». «I'm saying I condemn that, we will not allow that to continue,» she said. © Agence France-Presse

Shops close early, gatherings are limited as COVID-19 reshapes life in Seychelles

Shops in Seychelles on Monday began closing at an earlier time and new regulations limiting public gatherings to four people also went into effect, two efforts to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the island nation. Attorney General Frank Ally told a pre
Seychelles News Agency

Shops close early, gatherings are limited as COVID-19 reshapes life in Seychelles

Shops in Seychelles on Monday began closing at an earlier time and new regulations limiting public gatherings to four people also went into effect, two efforts to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the island nation. Attorney General Frank Ally told a press conference on Monday that this was an unprecedented time which calls for unprecedented measures and implored the public to respect the new orders. «We are in a situation where we are preventing public assembly because we have a public health emergency. This is not a normal situation. It is one where we have to protect ourselves and the public in general. It's not business as usual and people should understand this,» he said. Under the new regulations, all retail outlets will close from 6.30 pm to 6.30 am while food outlets such as takeaways and restaurants will close from 8 pm to 6.30 am. Public gatherings which previously were allowed up to 10 people have now been reduced to four persons at any given time. The regulations follow the signing of two amendments in the Public Health Infectious Diseases Regulations under the Public Health Act by President Danny Faure, who also holds the health portfolio. Faure announced the additional measures on Friday to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. The Attorney General said, «For the first time we are including social and physical distancing and if people do not comply then it will be an offence.» The Attorney General Frank Ally told a press conference on Monday that this was an unprecedented time which calls for unprecedented measures. (Thomas Meriton) Photo License: CC-BY  He said that for indoor public assemblies in places such as banks, workplaces, supermarket or health centres were allowed «as long as these people maintain their distance from each other and observe all the directions as stipulated by the Public Health Act on social distancing.» This he said does not apply to a household, «although the Public Health Commissioner has the power under the Public Health Infectious Disease Regulations to intervene in instances where a house is deemed overcrowded to order some people to vacate the place.» Ally added that «outdoor public assemblies for example at a bus stop or outside a bank or health centre are allowed and of course they will have to observe social and physical distancing.» To ensure that the public abides to the new regulations, the police say it has deployed over a hundred of its officers. Deputy Commissioner Ted Barbe said that the majority of people were observing the measures in place. He added that the police had intervened over the weekend to disperse people on beaches in the southern part of Mahe, the main island and in some areas on the outskirts of the capital Victoria. «People need to understand that we are serious and we will disperse any grouping. If they do not respect the order, we will use all manners permissible under the law to do so,» said Barbe. The Attorney General said under the regulations, the onus was not only on the public to comply but also on the owners of the trade premises to ensure the Public Health Commissioner's directions were being observed. «People who do not comply can be fined SCR20,000 ($1,461) or a two-year prison sentence or both,» added Ally. Seychelles recorded its eighth positive case of COVID-19 on Saturday, a 22-year-old Seychellois who arrived in the country on March 22 from Manchester. All eight patients are receiving treatment at the Isolation Centre at Perseverance, a man-made island. Ally said that in the event that the government feels there should be stricter measures, it could go to the National Assembly to request more drastic regulations in the interest of public health.

Seychelles and COVID-19: Inter islands cargo services running at a loss amid tourism shutdown

Cargo service between the main islands of Seychelles is struggling, losing money daily now that tourism establishments have closed in response to COVID-19. Gerard Rose of MV Espoir and Luc Grandcourt, owner of Praslin Hero and La Belle Praslinoise II, both t
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Inter islands cargo services running at a loss amid tourism shutdown

Cargo service between the main islands of Seychelles is struggling, losing money daily now that tourism establishments have closed in response to COVID-19. Gerard Rose of MV Espoir and Luc Grandcourt, owner of Praslin Hero and La Belle Praslinoise II, both told SNA that business has dropped this month, resulting in reduced trips to save operational costs. «I fear that if things do not improve in terms of the spread of this virus, we will find ourselves in a worse situation than what we were in back in 2008,» Rose told SNA on Monday. In 2008, as tourism and fishing revenue began slowing, Seychelles defaulted on $230 million in debt. The International Monetary Fund stepped in with a two-year, $26 million rescue package. The rescue package came with a few stipulations; the country laid off 1,800 government workers and floated its currency resulting in a higher cost of living. Rose, whose vessel has the capacity to carry 275 tonnes per day, said that the company is operating only three trips per week compared to five trips prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. «Our main clients were hotels as they bought in bulk from large suppliers such as ISPC or even import directly from overseas and we could bring that to Praslin daily,» explained Rose, who is based on the second-most populated island of Praslin. Grandcourt, also based on Praslin, said that both his vessels were offering cargo services between the inner islands of La Digue, Silhouette, Praslin and the main island of Mahe. La Belle Praslinoise II of Luc Grandcourt also offers cargo services. (Seychelles Nation)  Photo License: CC-BY   «But now we are operating only one ship at a time and our cargo is mostly goods and LPG gas for shops. We also used to carry a lot of construction materials as well, but now we see this situation as only maintaining our services and not necessarily making profits,» explained Grandcourt. Between them, the two companies provide jobs to 80 people amongst which half are full-time employees and half are employed on a casual basis. «We are running at a loss. Just to give you an idea, the vessel uses $580 worth of fuel every day, and nowadays we are making an average of $725 per day. So when we consider salaries, there is no profit,» said Rose. It is estimated that $18,000 is lost between the two companies per month. Even though the demand for cargo transfer between the islands has gone down, Grandcourt and Rose said they will maintain services for their clients, especially where transporting food items and basic commodities are concerned. Boats are the most effective and cheapest routes between the islands of the archipelago especially the inner islands where these are available all day, every day. Both entrepreneurs are troubled as to how quickly the pandemic has impacted Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, its economic activities and the livelihoods of its people. «I hope that things can get back to normal in the next couple of months because if by July we are in the same position, it will be a catastrophe for the country,» said Rose, who has been in this business for over 40 years. Ten days ago the head of state, Danny Faure, announced a series of measures, targeted mostly to the private sector which he said will keep Seychelles' economy afloat. 

Four in 10 people worldwide confined in some form

More than 3.38 billion people worldwide have been asked or ordered to follow confinement measures in the fight against COVID-19, according to an AFP database Sunday. That represents around 43 percent of the total world population, which is 7.79 billion peopl
Seychelles News Agency

Four in 10 people worldwide confined in some form

More than 3.38 billion people worldwide have been asked or ordered to follow confinement measures in the fight against COVID-19, according to an AFP database Sunday. That represents around 43 percent of the total world population, which is 7.79 billion people according to a United Nations count in 2020. The Chinese province Hubei and its capital city Wuhan, the first epicentre of the novel coronavirus, were the first to introduce confinement measures at the end of January. As Hubei province starts opening up again after its months-long isolation, confinement measures have multiplied worldwide in recent weeks. By March 18 these measures affected more than 500 million people. This increased to more than a billion people by March 23, and more than two billion just a day later. On March 25 more than three billion people were affected by confinement measures in some form. - Worldwide impact - On Sunday at least 3.381 billion people in at least 78 countries and territories have been called on to stay at home. Most of those -- at least 2.45 billion people in 42 countries and territories -- are under obligatory confinement. No region in the world is excluded. In Europe, the affected countries include Britain, France, Italy and Spain. In Asia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and more are affected, while many nations have measures in the Middle East including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel. In Africa, South Africa, Morocco, Madagascar, Rwanda and more are affected. In the Americas, confinement measures are in place in Colombia, Argentina, Peru and more, including a large part of the United States. In Oceania, New Zealand has imposed a lockdown. Congo-Brazzaville and two regions in Ghana will also join the list early next week. - Varying measures according to country - In most cases people are allowed to leave their homes to work, buy essential goods or for medical treatment. At least nine countries or territories -- comprising some 511 million people -- have urged their populations to stay home without imposing threats of punishment. These include Germany, Iran, Russia and Uganda. - Curfews and quarantines - At least 21 other countries or territories -- comprising some 384 million people -- have imposed evening curfews. This measure is particularly widespread in Africa (Egypt, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Gabon) and Latin America (Chile, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico). Saudi Arabia, Serbia and the city of Manila in the Philippines have also imposed curfews. At least seven countries have put their main cities under quarantine, barring populations from entering and exiting. This is the case for Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Riyadh, Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, Helsinki in Finland, and Baku in Azerbaijan. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: Tourism establishments grateful for financial assistance, but questions remain

Tourism establishments in Seychelles have welcomed measures and financial support being put in place to assist the worst-hit sector of the economy amid COVID-19. Business owners SNA spoke to said that whilst it is clear that special budget provisions have be
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Tourism establishments grateful for financial assistance, but questions remain

Tourism establishments in Seychelles have welcomed measures and financial support being put in place to assist the worst-hit sector of the economy amid COVID-19. Business owners SNA spoke to said that whilst it is clear that special budget provisions have been made to pay salaries and grace period over loans repayments offered, it is not clear whether all tourism-related services in the industry will benefit.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of visitors to the islands has been dwindling as many countries went into lockdown, closed their borders and banned their citizens from travelling. Sybille Cardon, the chairperson of the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA), described the industry as ‘dead’. “It is the first time in Seychelles’ history that the tourism industry encounters such a situation,” explained Cardon. “The announcement that the government will take over the payment of salaries of employees in the private sector has been well received and will help us a lot,” said Cardon. The hotelier added: “Prior to the announcement of measures, many tourism establishments had been preoccupied over how they were going to pay their employees given that their revenues over the next coming months will practically be non-existent.” Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of visitors to the islands has been dwindling as many countries went into lockdown, closed their borders and banned their citizens from travelling. (Dave Ernesta) Photo License: All Rights Reserved The Ministry for Tourism has during this week been in contact with several small self-catering establishments in the north of the main island of Mahe. This was to discuss the current situation of  COVID-19, its impact as well as informing them of the measures that the government has put in place to provide support to the industry. Barbara Focktave, the owner of Surfers Cove, told SNA that she has welcomed the support. “We have been empty since the middle of this month and our worries had to do mainly with our business loan, but now we have been informed that we will benefit with a grace period of six months for the repayment.”  Surfers Cove, comprising of four one-bedroom apartments, is a self-catering establishment opened in May 2017. Foctave added that the minister Didier Dogley personally spoke to her to explain these measures, something she said will help to boost the morale of those directly affected. Dominique de La Fontaine of La Fontaine Holiday Apartment said that his worry has to do with keeping all his staff. “Laying off employees is not an option. I hope that we can be fully supported until the situation ends.” De La Fontaine said that his apartments are all almost all empty except for two visitors who are still waiting to be repatriated home. Something which is becoming almost impossible with all airlines pulling out.  Business owners said it is not clear whether all tourism-related services will benefit from the special budget provisions made for salaries and grace period for loan repayment. (Lydia Bastienne) Photo License: All Rights Reserved On the third most populated island of La Digue, Laura St Ange of Chez Marston said that she is still waiting to get information on how her business will be assisted. “We have heard that an office will be opened here next week which will facilitate us to get assistance, so I hope to get some insight of support there,” said St Ange, whose businesses includes two guest houses and a restaurant. Car rentals, boat excursions, tourist guides are other businesses severely being impacted and these businesses are not clear whether they will be assisted. “Our company currently employs 15 people and we are involved in water sports and boat charter. I am still in the dark on how we will be supported,” Lydia Bastienne of Mamila Charters and Watersports told SNA. Bastienne said that the company had to stop all its activities two weeks ago when Beauvallon – the most popular beach for visitors on the main island – became deserted. Watersports, car rentals, boat excursions, tourist guides are other businesses severely being impacted and these businesses are not clear whether they will be assisted. (Lydia Bastienne) Photo License: All Rights Reserved Early this week it was revealed that a survey carried out in Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - showed that at least 2,367 bookings worth $3.8 million were cancelled between February 25 and March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus fears spark urban exodus across Africa

No one can remember ever seeing as many people heading out of Antananarivo along national highway number 7. Madagascans have joined the exodus in their hundreds in recent days, forming long queues to get away after the authorities declared a lockdown to try
Seychelles News Agency

Coronavirus fears spark urban exodus across Africa

No one can remember ever seeing as many people heading out of Antananarivo along national highway number 7. Madagascans have joined the exodus in their hundreds in recent days, forming long queues to get away after the authorities declared a lockdown to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. Richard Rakotoarisoa hit the road during the morning, surrounded by dozens of other people who have decided to head south on foot, rather than risk being stuck in the city with little or no food. «We stopped work and and accepted the constraints of confinement, but we still have to eat and feed our children,» the 30-year-old father, says. «For me, it was a question of discipline or leaving.» Before dawn, he woke his two children and loaded a bicycle with what he could and set off for the town of Antsirabe, 150 kilometres (90 miles) away, expecting a three-day walk to join his wife and the rest of their family there. «We don't really know when we will get there, but we are preparing to spend several nights on the road, sleeping under the stars,» Rakotoarisoa says. There is no question of going back. «In our village, our parents are farmers. We can live off what we grow. In the capital, under confinement we would just be waiting till hunger takes our lives.» Across the African continent, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already left nearly 28,000 people dead around the world according to an AFP tally, has sparked the same mass movement of populations. - 'We must move' - In Kenya, as soon as the first case of the virus was confirmed on March 13, people flooded from the capital Nairobi by car and packed into the local «matatu» (minibus) heading for the countryside. The surge has since slowed, but the brightly painted matatu are still in demand even if the official capacity of the vehicles has been cut in half for health reasons. «We must move,» says Jerry Musyoka, who runs an electronics store. «This city is not safe for us, that is why I am moving to the village» with his wife and two children. «We don't wan't to catch corona,» he adds. «The kids have been ordered to stay home because there is no school, I have taken time off to stay away with my family in my village,» called Kitui, which lies 150 kms to the east. The Kenyan government imposed a night curfew from Friday, but for many citizens a lockdown order is coming soon. «When you look at what other countries are doing, we must expect a total lockdown here. I will not wait for it,» admits lawyer Johnson Makori. «I have closed my office for now and I am going to the village in Kisii.» He says he will not be back before the crisis is over. Unlike Kenya, numerous other African countries have reacted swiftly to the risk of migrations. Gabon, which has declared seven virus cases and one death in the capital Libreville and its surrounds, suspended domestic flights and train services while urging people not to take off for the countryside. «These measures should slow the spread of the virus ... to the villages where the majority of the elderly and most vulnerable live,» says Dr Guy Patrick Obiang Ndong, spokesman for the government's committee to fight coronavirus. Gabon could also count on the terrible state of its roads to discourage people from setting off. - Containing the epidemic - Relatively few tests have been carried out in Africa but with 3,203 cases and 87 deaths already reported across the continent, the disease is feared to be spreading widely. Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo have taken the more radical decision to isolate their biggest towns and cities. The governor of Kinshasa has ordered a lockdown, telling the capital's 10 million people to stay at home from Saturday for at least the next four days. President Felix Tshisekedi had already halted flights and river transport between the city and the rest of the country earlier during the week. However, that failed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus to the northeastern province of Ituri, which has recorded the first case outside Kinshasa. In Madagascar, the health authorities have had a roadblock set up on highway 7, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the capital, in a bid, they said, to detect people «fleeing» with the virus. «More than 2,000 people have gone through this roadblock this morning,» Dr Hanitriniaina Radrianarison said on Thursday. «So far, no one has shown a temperature higher than normal.» The gendarmes are also checking vehicles to try to cut the flow of people down the RN7, but plenty of people are still trying. Bread delivery man Justin Randriamahefa, 35, his wife and two children got out of Antananarivo on bicycles and headed for the town of Ambositra, 250 kilometres (155 miles) away. «I could work only in the morning. That forced me to leave,» he says. «You cannot let your children die of hunger.» © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: Catholic Church bans funerals, fewer passengers on buses, new public cleanings

The Roman Catholic Church of Seychelles has stopped all religious funeral services, fewer passengers will be allowed on buses, and public spaces are being given a good scrubbing. The new measures effective this week are amongst latest efforts to contain COVI
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Catholic Church bans funerals, fewer passengers on buses, new public cleanings

The Roman Catholic Church of Seychelles has stopped all religious funeral services, fewer passengers will be allowed on buses, and public spaces are being given a good scrubbing. The new measures effective this week are amongst latest efforts to contain COVID-19 after a state of Public Health Emergency was declared on Monday in Seychelles. In a communique from the Catholic Church, Bishop Denis Wiehe said that members of the public must abide by the regulations which have been put in place. “This is quite a difficult decision as we are going through trying times but for us, in churches, we must understand this. For the health of our country we must abide by regulations,” said Wiehe. As of last Friday last week, all masses and other religious gatherings including in mosques and temple are banned. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY The bishop explained that parish priests will support bereaved families with leaflets of prayers for the burials. Even the burial is being restricted to family members and close friends only. On its part, the Anglican Church is still maintaining funeral services but this has been shortened to half an hour services with only family and close friends attending. Social distancing is also being enforced where only three persons are allowed to sit per bench. “The Anglican Church is maintaining the funeral services according to the regulations. However the Diocesan Liturgical Commission has already worked on a shorter version of the funeral liturgy, which will be used for funeral services,” Reverend Christine Benoit told SNA. Roman Catholic is the main religion of the Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – with around 75 per cent believers whilst 6 per cent of the population are Anglicans. As of last Friday last week, all masses and other religious gatherings including in mosques and temple are banned. Mass from the two main churches - the catholic and Anglican - is celebrated every Sunday morning with a handful of faithful and is transmitted live on the main television and radio stations. As of this week, the LWMA has started thorough cleanings of all bus stops of the main island and the second most populated island of Mahe and Praslin. (Gerry Joseph) Photo License: All Rights Reserved The Seychelles Public Transport Company (SPTC) on Thursday announced that it will limit the number of passengers allowed to board buses. General Manager for Operations at the company said: “Drivers have been told not to take standing passengers as we are also playing our role to prevent the spread of the virus.” Bernadette Sophola added that as there are fewer people in circulation fewer people can be seen on the buses. But passengers are also encouraged to take their responsibility and abide by new regulations. And as a way of reinforcing social distancing at the main terminals, the SPTC has demarcated benches to ensure that the one-meter is respected and crowding prevented. Eight cases of COVID – 19 are confirmed in the island nation and maximum precautions are being taken to contain the virus and prevent community transmissions. As of this week, the Landscape and Waste Management Agency has started thorough cleanings of all bus stops of the main island and the second most populated island of Mahe and Praslin. The agency is also deep washing public benches and public toilets in the capital city of Victoria daily. (Gerry Joseph) Photo License: All Rights Reserved “We are doing the cleanings at night after the last bus service and we are doing thorough washing with disinfectants three times a week and as per guidelines from Public Health Authority,” Flavien Joubert - chief executive of the agency - told SNA. The agency is also deep washing public benches and public toilets in the capital city of Victoria daily. Joubert added that ´all surfaces that the public has contact with at these sites such as door handles are also being disinfected.” The CEO said that the cleaning of litter bin sites in Victoria has also increased from once weekly to three times per week. An additional $35,000 per month is being spent to implement these new hygiene measures, something the Landscape and Waste Management Agency say they have no choice but do to protect the population from COVID–19.  

Seychelles' airport to remain open during period of nearly no international flights

Seychelles' international airport will remain operational during the next several weeks during which almost no regularly scheduled international flights are expected into or out of the island nation, said a top official. The chief executive of the Seychelle
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles' airport to remain open during period of nearly no international flights

Seychelles' international airport will remain operational during the next several weeks during which almost no regularly scheduled international flights are expected into or out of the island nation, said a top official. The chief executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), Gary Albert, told a press conference on Friday that «as of next week all flights coming to and out of the island nation will be solely for the purpose of passenger repatriation.» Albert said that other than attending to flights carrying passengers, the international airport at Pointe Larue offers other essential services which include medical evacuations, cargo operations, emergency landings, and humanitarian and technical landings.   The CEO said, «From next week flight frequency will go down to almost zero. Out of the 14 airlines, only Ethiopian Airline has a scheduled flight next week.»    «On a normal day, we get 80 international arrivals per week. This week we are having only 15 arrivals,» he added. He said that the airport will also attend to domestic flights which have reduced from 40 to two per day. Although some airline stated they will resume flights in April, that will depend on the directives of the Department of Health as to when Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, will reopen its border. In the latest travel advisory from the Department of Health on Wednesday, no passengers from any country (except returning Seychellois citizens) will be allowed to enter Seychelles. In the event that a person who has been to any country (except returning Seychellois citizens) arrives in Seychelles, the person will not be allowed entry and the carrier airline or vessel will be responsible for the immediate return of the passenger. All airlines with inbound flights for Seychelles are directed not to board any passengers or crew (except returning Seychellois citizens) from any country. Albert said that the situation is having a direct impact on SCAA as the authority's revenues are from passengers and flights that go through and out the Seychelles international airport. According to SCAA in 2019 there were 921,704 passengers that went through the island nation's airport.  Seychelles has seven patients who tested positive for COVID-19 – three Seychellois and four foreigners and who are all in the isolation treatment centre as the Family Hospital at Perseverance. 

Italy, Spain suffer record virus deaths as British PM tests positive

Italy on Friday recorded the most daily deaths of any country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and Spain had its deadliest day, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first major world leader to test positive. Italy reported 969 new de
Seychelles News Agency

Italy, Spain suffer record virus deaths as British PM tests positive

Italy on Friday recorded the most daily deaths of any country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and Spain had its deadliest day, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first major world leader to test positive. Italy reported 969 new deaths, Spain 769 and France 299 as Europe reeled from a crisis that led the United States on Friday to finalise an unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus package. In other grim milestones, AFP tallies showed more than 26,000 deaths worldwide, and a total of 300,000 cases now recorded in Europe, after the United States overtook China as the country with the most infections. Italy showed a continuing downward trend in infection rates and Spain said its rate appeared to be slowing, but other countries were bracing for the virus's full impact. Ireland announced it was imposing a lockdown, with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar imploring his citizens to «stay at home, in all circumstances». The World Health Organization's regional director for Africa warned the continent faced a «dramatic evolution» of the pandemic, as South Africa also began life under lockdown and reported its first COVID-19 death. Johnson, whose country has seen more than 14,000 declared coronavirus cases and 759 deaths, said he had developed mild symptoms and tested positive. «I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government's response via video-conference as we fight this virus,» Johnson, who had initially resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown before changing course, wrote on Twitter. Europe has suffered the brunt of the coronavirus crisis in recent weeks, with millions across the continent on lockdown and the streets of Paris, Rome and Madrid eerily empty. - 'She just had a cough' - In France, where nearly 2,000 people have died, the government announced it was extending its stay-at-home order until at least April 15. While severe, the 299 new deaths it recorded Friday were lower than the 365 reported the previous day. The death of a 16-year-old girl from the virus has particularly shaken France, shattering the belief of many young people that they were immune. The girl's mother Sabine told AFP that Julie «just had a cough» at first but deteriorated quickly. She died Wednesday, less than a week later. «It's unbearable,» Sabine said. «We were supposed to have a normal life.» In the United States, known infections jumped past 100,000, surpassing China and Italy, with more than 1,500 deaths, according to a tracker at the Johns Hopkins University. In New York City, the US epicentre of the crisis, health workers battled a surging toll, including an increasing number of younger patients. «Now it's 50-year-olds, 40-year-olds, 30-year-olds,» said one respiratory therapist at the Jewish Medical Center in Queens. They «didn't listen about not going out or protecting themselves and washing their hands,» he said. - Historic US stimulus - Wall Street slipped again after three days of recovering this month's heavy losses, even as President Donald Trump signed into law the largest stimulus package in US history. The package will pump $100 billion into hospitals and give checks of up to $3,400 for the average family of four, in the hopes of reviving spending after unemployment claims soared to a new record. «This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation's families, workers and businesses. That's what this is all about,» Trump said. Trump also invoked an act usually used in wartime to order General Motors to speed up its commitment to make badly needed ventilators. He said the move «should demonstrate clearly that we will not hesitate to use the full authority of the federal government to combat this crisis.» Even as Europe readied its own stimulus measures, experts warned of misery that could rival the Great Depression, with millions suddenly unemployed. «It is clear that we have entered a recession» that will be worse than in 2009 following the global financial crisis, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said Friday. - Pope before empty square - The coronavirus first emerged in China late last year before spreading globally, with more than half a million declared cases in 183 countries and territories. Over the last six days, as many new cases have been diagnosed around the world as in the previous 80 days. Beijing managed to contain its spread with lockdowns and quarantines, and its epicentre Wuhan is easing severe movement restrictions in place for two months. In a historic first, Pope Francis performed the rarely recited «Urbi et Orbi» blessing to an empty Saint Peter's Square. «Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by,» he said. «We find ourselves afraid and lost,» he said, describing the coronavirus as a «tempest». The WHO's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference in Geneva the dire lack of protective gear for frontline health workers was «one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives». The World Tourism Organization said Friday it expected tourist arrivals to drop by 20-30 percent this year, with losses of $300-450 billion internationally. But there have been rays of hope. Armed groups in Cameroon, the Philippines and Yemen have moved to reduce violence after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for ceasefires. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: Shops to close at 6.30 pm; 4-person limit on public gatherings

Seychelles' President Danny Faure on Friday announced earlier closing times for shops and a four-person limit on public gatherings, measures by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the island nation. Faure noted that the number of patients wh
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Shops to close at 6.30 pm; 4-person limit on public gatherings

Seychelles' President Danny Faure on Friday announced earlier closing times for shops and a four-person limit on public gatherings, measures by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the island nation. Faure noted that the number of patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus in Seychelles remained at seven over the last week, a piece of good news and evidence that strict social and travel measures are having an effect. «This virus does not know borders, race, religion, or financial means: it is an invisible enemy. In such a situation, in order for us to confront this virus and come out victorious, we need to always be on our guard. It is imperative that we respect authority and the measures in place,» he said. With the virus in Seychelles, Faure said that «we need to reorient our daily life habits in line with maintaining physical distance. Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that can help stop the spread of infections.» Along this line, the President said that as of Monday, March 30, all shops will be closed from 6.30 p.m. as a measure to avoid people gathering outside these establishments. Another measure taking effect from Monday is the prohibition of gatherings of more than four people in public places. «In view of this public health emergency, we will continue to review existing laws to ensure the Public Health Commissioner is able to continue taking the necessary measures to protect our health,» said the President. He announced that the government has approved a special allowance for all health workers working on the frontline of this pandemic. This will also apply to staff in immigration and customs at the port and airport. «We have 3,800 home carers looking after our elderly. They will also receive a special allowance during this period on the condition that they continue to work; continue to give care and attention to our elderly,» he added. For children who receive financial assistance through a dedicated fund, the Agency for Social Protection will make a direct transfer to parents during this period to ensure no child is affected. While citizens on welfare with a special Seychelles Trading Company (STC) card arrangements have been made so that the same card can be used to purchase gas. Faure said he was «satisfied to see that there is a great effort from our citizens to adapt and adopt new measures faced with this situation we are in. We need to remain consistent with our efforts. We all need to continue maintaining our discipline and cooperation.' He also talked about the economic repercussion of the pandemic and said that it is clear »that even if we get through the next few months without the spread of COVID-19 among our population, Seychelles is entering a new reality full of uncertainty.« He said that in 2008, Seychelles was in a precarious position when the reserves were very low and debt levels were extremely high. In November 2008, as the global financial crisis started, Seychelles launched its economic reforms. »We worked very hard together, all of us, to bring our economy to where it is today. We sacrificed, we persevered, and we progressed. It is as though for 12 years, we were climbing a mountain and almost at the top. In the space of less than two weeks, we watch ourselves sliding down, and today, the peak of the mountain is much further away. This coronavirus has set us back. But it will not stop us,« said Faure. »We need to review our expenditures. Review our priorities. It is within this context that the Minister of Finance will present a new Budget on 31 March in response to this new reality we are facing. We will all have to make sacrifices in the coming months. We all need to take our responsibility. As President of the Republic, I have chosen not to take a salary for the next three months,« added the President. Faure said he is confident in the ability of the Seychellois people to overcome these challenging times. »Together, we will get through this. We made it in 2008 and we will make it in 2020. Let us maintain this spirit of working hard. Let us maintain this spirit of working together. Let us maintain our unity,« he said. Faure concluded in thanking »everyone working on the frontline of this pandemic. We owe a sincere debt of gratitude to all our health professionals and all volunteers. My equal thanks to all other workers assisting in this national effort for the professionalism and devotion demonstrated every day." 

China, Abu Dhabi donate tonnes of medical supplies to Seychelles to fight COVID-19

The China-based Jack Ma Foundation has donated a two-tonne consignment of medical testing kits and medicine to Seychelles as part of humanitarian aid to help fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The consignment arrived Wednesday, the same day as a
Seychelles News Agency

China, Abu Dhabi donate tonnes of medical supplies to Seychelles to fight COVID-19

The China-based Jack Ma Foundation has donated a two-tonne consignment of medical testing kits and medicine to Seychelles as part of humanitarian aid to help fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The consignment arrived Wednesday, the same day as another consignment donated by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. That consignment of 11 tonnes of medical supplies included coveralls, isolation gowns, gloves, hand sanitizers, masks and other medical items. The Chinese consignment, which arrived onboard Ethiopian Airline, is part of the medical equipment that the Foundation run by the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, is to African Union (AU) member States. Seychelles, like all other member states, received 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical use protective suits and face shields. The Chinese Embassy in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, told SNA on Friday via email that China is paying close attention to the situation in Africa. «China has been offering assistance including medical supplies and Chinese experience on combating COVID-19 to African countries including Seychelles and the African Union in a humanitarian spirit,» said the Embassy. This relief initiative was launched by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation as part of actions towards implementation of the Africa joint continental strategy for COVID-19 led by the AU through Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The Embassy said the virus is the common enemy of mankind and the pandemic knows no borders but it brings out the best in humanity. The consignment comprises of 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical use protective suits and face shields. (Patrick Joubert) Photo License: CC-BY «By helping African countries and Seychelles, China has lent firm support to the global fight against the pandemic, made contributions to global public health security, fulfilled its role as a responsible major country and put into practice the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind,» added the Embassy. In a press conference on Thursday, the chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Danny Louange, said that the COVID-19 situation in Seychelles remains the same. «We have seven positive cases and they are all in the isolation centre at the Family Hospital... Among the seven, one patient -- a Dutch -- is still in critical condition.»   Louange said the consignments of equipment will help the Health Care Agency to stock up and that is important «because we were running out especially as most countries have closed their borders and are not exporting this equipment.» Aside from international assistance, local businesses and private individuals are also assisting in one way or another. The Chinese government through its Embassy has mobilised Chinese medical teams in Seychelles to actively participate in the actions. The Embassy said that «emergency assistance provided by the Chinese government will be delivered in batches to Africa including Seychelles in a short time, and China will continue to work hand in hand with Seychelles to prevail over the pandemic and contribute to regional public health security.»

US tops world in virus cases, overtaking China and Italy

The United States on Thursday took the grim title of the country with the most coronavirus infections and reported a record surge in unemployment as world leaders vowed $5 trillion to stave off global economic collapse. More than 500,000 people around the wo
Seychelles News Agency

US tops world in virus cases, overtaking China and Italy

The United States on Thursday took the grim title of the country with the most coronavirus infections and reported a record surge in unemployment as world leaders vowed $5 trillion to stave off global economic collapse. More than 500,000 people around the world have now contracted the new coronavirus, overwhelming healthcare systems even in wealthy nations and triggering an avalanche of government-ordered lockdowns that have disrupted life for billions. In the United States, more than 83,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, edging out Italy, which has reported the most deaths, and China, where the virus was first detected in December in the metropolis of Wuhan. The US has recorded 1,178 deaths, while the global death toll stood at 23,293. «We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect our citizens,» US President Donald Trump said. With about 40 percent of Americans under lockdown orders, Trump urged citizens to do their part by practicing social distancing: «Stay home. Just relax, stay home.» With fears mounting of a global recession if not depression, leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link Thursday, pledging a «united front» to fight the outbreak -- along with an enormous financial injection. «The virus respects no borders,» the leaders said in a statement. «We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.» They also pledged «robust» support for developing nations, where coronavirus could next take hold after ravaging China and then Europe. But the unity pledged by the G20 has been in short supply, with China and the United States trading barbs over their handling of the coronavirus crisis. And Italy as well as Spain, which has the second-highest death toll, objected to a draft economic plan by the European Union which they saw as too weak. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants a «strong and sufficient» financial response that deploys «innovative financial instruments truly adapted to a war,» his office said. - Record one-day toll in France - Alarmed by the rapid spread of the sickness in Italy, France has taken aggressive action to stem the virus and went under lockdown on March 17. But the 365 deaths reported Thursday was its highest in a one-day period and, alarmingly, included a 16-year-old girl -- a rare case of a young person succumbing to a virus that has devastated the elderly. «It is very difficult to estimate when the peak will come,» French health official Jerome Salomon said. «People who are ill now were infected before the confinement began.» «Now there is less contact, people are going out less and get infected less. So we hope there will be fewer people getting sick next week and fewer people going to hospital,» he told reporters. With hospitals under severe strain, medical workers in Italy and Spain are making painstaking choices. «If I've got five patients and only one bed, I have to choose who gets it,» Sara Chinchilla, a pediatrician at a hospital near Madrid, told AFP. «People are dying who could be saved but there's no space in intensive care.» In Britain, the National Health Service said London's hospitals are facing a «continuous tsunami» of seriously ill COVID-19 patients, despite a lockdown imposed this week. And in New York, the virus hotbed in the United States, authorities hope to stem infections as the city struggles to more than double the number of available hospital beds. «Almost any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the current healthcare system,» Governor Andrew Cuomo warned. First responders in New York were receiving more than 6,000 calls to the 911 emergency line a day, many from people seeking virus testing. It is «breaking records. We didn't have this many calls on 9/11,» said Anthony Almojeria, a leader in the emergency medical services union, referring to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. - Economic devastation - The pandemic has already, and rapidly, been catastrophic to the global economy. In the United States, the world's largest economy, the Labor Department reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week -- by far the highest number ever recorded. Job losses have swept across sectors from food services to retail to transportation, as nearly half of the country has closed to «non-essential» businesses. «It is staggering. We are only seeing the initial numbers; they will get worse, unfortunately,» New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, estimating that half a million people in the city would lose work. But Wall Street soared for a third straight day, recouping more of this month's hefty losses, on expectations for the largest stimulus in US history. The Senate early Thursday unanimously passed a $2 trillion package that will provide cash payouts averaging $3,400 for a family of four. Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced confidence that the House of Representatives would follow suit on Friday. - Glimmer of hope - The global lockdown -- which also hemmed in India's huge population this week -- tightened further on Thursday as Russia announced it was grounding all international flights, while Moscow's mayor ordered the closure of cafes, shops and parks. Tokyo's millions of citizens have been told to stay home, too, just days after the city was forced to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games for a year. China said it was barring entry to most foreigners, fearing that imported cases were undermining its success in bringing domestic transmissions way down. And South Africa came under a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown as its cases climbed to more than 900 -- about a third of Africa's 3,200 cases. The impact of the virus has stretched well beyond frontline health workers, with billions trapped in their homes and facing what experts say could be lasting psychological harm. But offering a glimmer of hope, both Italy and Spain have seen lower daily rates of new infections this week. The World Health Organization called Italy's numbers «encouraging signs,» but warned it was «still too early to say whether the pandemic is peaking.» A study from Britain's Imperial College provided a grim prediction, saying 1.8 million people could die worldwide this year even with swift action to halt the virus. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: Last international flight temporarily suspended as Air Seychelles closes South Africa route

Air Seychelles has suspended all flights across its regional network until mid-April due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, the airline said on Thursday. The decision by the island nation's airline means that as of this weekend no regularly scheduled commercia
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Last international flight temporarily suspended as Air Seychelles closes South Africa route

Air Seychelles has suspended all flights across its regional network until mid-April due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, the airline said on Thursday. The decision by the island nation's airline means that as of this weekend no regularly scheduled commercial airline will fly any international flights into or out of Seychelles for the next several weeks due to COVID-19, effectively isolating the archipelago from international travel. Air Seychelles operated its last flight on Wednesday from Johannesburg to the Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. It aims to resume services on April 18. Air Seychelles' decision follows intensified travel advisories, national lockdowns and closures at ports of entry within the Indian Ocean, South Africa, and India, as well as in the Seychelles, in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. Travellers across the airline's network are advised to alter their dates of travel without incurring a change fee. For those unsure of their exact travelling dates, Air Seychelles is recommending travellers to proceed with cancelling their reservation now and rebooking without a fee for travel at a later time. Remco Althuis, the chief executive said, «For the first time in Air Seychelles' 41 years history, we are suspending international flying due to the extraordinary events surrounding COVID-19.» Althuis said that the airline's priority now «is to ensure the safety of our employees and fellow citizens, while also focusing our energy on maintaining vital cargo supply chains to the country. We hope to resume normal commercial operations as soon as the situation improves.» In addition, Air Seychelles has also revised its domestic schedule to offer only two rotations between Mahe and Praslin, the two most populated islands, daily effective Thursday, March 26. In the updated travel advisory from the Seychelles' Department of Health on Wednesday, with immediate effect until further notice, any passenger arriving from any country (except returning Seychellois citizens) will not be allowed to enter Seychelles. In the event that a person who has been to any country (except returning Seychellois citizens) arrives in Seychelles, the person will not be allowed entry and the carrier airline or vessel will be responsible for the immediate return of the passenger. All Seychellois citizens returning from any country will be subjected to additional health screening and placed under obligatory quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival. Airlines with inbound flights for Seychelles, are directed not to board any passengers or crew (except returning Seychellois citizens) from any country. The same applies to any person arriving in Seychelles (except returning Seychellois citizens) will not be allowed to disembark. Foreign nationals who require to enter Seychelles for any special mission has to obtain written permissions from the Public Health Commissioner prior to leaving the country of origin. Seychelles has seven patients who tested positive cases o COVID-19 – three Seychellois and four foreigners and are all in the isolation treatment centre as the Family Hospital at Perseverance. 

Seychelles protects 30 percent of territorial waters, meeting target 10 years ahead of schedule

Seychelles has legally designated 30 percent of its territorial waters as marine protected areas 10 years ahead of international targets, President Danny Faure said at the signing of legal document on Thursday. Faure said that with the signature and gazetti
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles protects 30 percent of territorial waters, meeting target 10 years ahead of schedule

Seychelles has legally designated 30 percent of its territorial waters as marine protected areas 10 years ahead of international targets, President Danny Faure said at the signing of legal document on Thursday. Faure said that with the signature and gazetting of the legal instruments «13 new areas will be declared as protected under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act, totalling an area of 410,000 square kilometres.» He added that half of these designate areas are of high biodiversity and gazetted as Marine National Parks where almost no human activity other than sustainable tourism will be permitted. These areas include the waters surrounding the Aldabra group, marine areas in the Amirantes including D'Arros to Poivre, and the South of Amirantes and Bird Island, one of the only 2 sand cays in the inner island group.  The rest which falls within the Amirantes to Fortune Bank are of medium biodiversity and designated for sustainable use where activities vital to Seychelles' economy will continue to operate but will be managed under new sustainability regulations. The signing of legal document by the environment minister on Thursday. (Thomas Meriton)  Photo License: CC-BY With the new designation, which is a product of the Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) process, Seychelles' protected area is now 410,000 square kilometres of the island nation's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.4 million square kilometres. «This is the first comprehensive, large-scale Marine Spatial Plan in the Western Indian Ocean, one of the first for a Small Island Developing State, and the largest Marine Spatial Plan in the world, after Norway. For those who have been part of the process from the beginning, today is a very special day,» added the President. The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan is a government-led initiative following the award-winning debt-for-nature swap, which was formalised through the creation of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust in 2016. The project manager of the plan, Helena Sims, said the plan is now transitioning from zoning to implementation. Implementation begins in 2021 and «the government has already started to build this road. Today we witness Seychelles taking a huge step towards realising its long term vision for healthy oceans and a prosperous national economy.» «With fisheries and marine-based tourism being the two pillars of the country's economy then the ocean is central to Seychelles' development and for the future generations to come,» said Sims. Faure said that Seychelles' marine ecosystem is the foundation that the economy is built upon, with fisheries and tourism being the primary pillars of our economy. «With over 1.35 million square kilometres of ocean, the people of Seychelles have a direct dependence on our ocean resources for food security and livelihoods. Developing a Marine Spatial Plan is a way of tackling the sustainable development of the ocean for today and future generations,» he added. There are currently 18 marine protected areas in Seychelles which have undergone the implementation stage, and six of them are marine national parks. There are also three fisheries management protected areas, three special reserves, one protected area, and four shells reserves.  

Kids and COVID in Seychelles: 6 reasons working at home is so hard right now

Since the first cases of COVID–19 were confirmed in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – almost two weeks ago, all public and private schools have closed down. With daycare centres also now closed, parents have opted to take leave or w
Seychelles News Agency

Kids and COVID in Seychelles: 6 reasons working at home is so hard right now

Since the first cases of COVID–19 were confirmed in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – almost two weeks ago, all public and private schools have closed down. With daycare centres also now closed, parents have opted to take leave or work from home. We all love our kids, but things can get ... frustrating. SNA brings you 6 reasons why kids at home are so hard for working parents.   We worker-bees must judge-and-jury bickering brawls Working at home when children are in class can be a blissful, productive experience. But add kids to the mix, and things become chaotic. The parent becomes judge and the jury over bickering and all-out brawls while also dealing with work emails and calls. Parents must remain calm when the boss is on the line and the kids are misbehaving. (Bernice Docteur) Photo License: All Rights Reserved Parenting comes before work (sorry boss!) At home with kids, your most important role remains as a parent. So there will always be chores to do, meals to be prepared and rules to be set and maintained. And of course, the policing that goes with all the rules, as these are often not respected and disciplinary actions need to be taken. This parent-first role makes it very stressful especially to meet your daily work deadline.  (Bernice Docteur) Photo License: All Rights Reserved Why do the kids shout Mom! and Dad! all day long? Those kids sure do need us, don't they? There is always “come and watch TV with me, read me a book, so and so does not want to play with me, so you come and play with me.” We love them, they won't always want us around. And as a good parent, you try to accommodate them, but that work won't finish itself! (Cecile Kalebi) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  Mom and dad, the short-order cook and snack provider Kids sure do eat a lot. Being at home with kids means you are in control of all aspects of each meal, from prep to clean-up. And boy do children snack a lot ... all day long! An eye must be kept on the fridge to ensure that they maintain healthy eating habits. (Genevieve Rene) Photo License: All Rights Reserved Are my bills going up!?! With kids at home all day, parents have to be up to their energy efficiency watchdog game. Water taps off? Lights switched off? Refrigerator closed? Imagine this: the kitchen sink is running, the fridge is open, all the lights are on, and angelic child is sitting in the living room playing his tablet with the TV on. Oh, and the fan in the bedroom is on. CHILDREN!!!  (Dave Ernesta) Photo License: All Rights Reserved Kids: Go outside and play! Another dilemma: begging children to go and play outside. Almost all parents will agree that the younger generation tends to spend all their times indoor. But with schools closed parents have to also take up the role of PE teachers and ensure that they engage in physical activities, be it skipping ropes, kicking a ball or taking a walk ... all while keeping COVID-19 sanitation measures at the front of mind. We all know the sun is good for humans and provides us with vitamin D abundantly and free of charge. But when they return, «Kids: Wash your hands!»  (Dave Ernesta) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

Businesses in Seychelles help COVID-19 fight: hotel as quarantine centre, casino donates funds

Businesses and private individuals are joining Seychelles' government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic affecting countries worldwide. While some businesses are donating cash and providing water supplies, one establishment -- Berjaya Beau Vallon Ba
Seychelles News Agency

Businesses in Seychelles help COVID-19 fight: hotel as quarantine centre, casino donates funds

Businesses and private individuals are joining Seychelles' government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic affecting countries worldwide. While some businesses are donating cash and providing water supplies, one establishment -- Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay resort in the north of the main island -- is providing its entire hotel for quarantine purposes.  The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told SNA on Wednesday that the facility is very useful as it can accommodate a large number of people. «It has 108 rooms mostly all attached with bathroom facilities. This will allow us on a daily basis to administer people that might have gotten into contact with those infected with the virus. The location is ideal as it allows us to react quickly and transport patients easier than the isolation centre,» he said.  Gedeon added that the hotel will also help the ministry of health in terms of quick coordination and staffing. «It will allow us to better monitor the people in view that they could all be located in one place. Currently, we have two places that we are using as quarantine, now the objective is to move them all to the resort,» Gedeon told SNA. A quarantine centre is a place designated to restrict the movement of people that might have been exposed to any communicable diseases.    Under the Seychelles Public Health Act, provision is made for the health authority to request any facilities or buildings for public health purposes in times of crisis. Gedeon said that upon discussion with the hotel's management, they agreed to assist so the authority did not have to use its legal power. SNA did not manage to get in touch with a member of the hotel's management for comment. Another local business -- Gran Kaz casino -- has donated over SCR600,000 ($43,000) to the health authority to purchase testing kits and a ventilator. The casino' s marketing and communication manager, Shama Amesbury, told SNA they are assisting in any way they can to curb the spread of the virus. «We are all living in this country. Grand Kaz has always been a socially responsible company and we realized that everybody has a role to play in this society. People that are sick cannot go to work, thus, they will not be able to assist themselves and their children,» she said.  Amesbury added that «our country survives on tourism and due to the fact that we are being affected by the virus, it is affecting our economy and livelihood entirely. The health of the population is also at risk. So it is along that line that we are assisting the ministry of health to stop the spread of this virus.» The willingness to help has also come from people affected by the pandemic and Gedeon said that a lady whose husband is in quarantine has donated 700 bottles of water.    To date, there are seven patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Among the seven are three Seychellois and four foreigners.

World leaders to hold crisis talks as virus toll tops 21,000

World leaders are to hold online crisis talks Thursday on the coronavirus pandemic that has forced three billion people into lockdown and claimed more than 21,000 lives. With the disease tearing around the globe at a terrifying pace, warnings are multiplyin
Seychelles News Agency

World leaders to hold crisis talks as virus toll tops 21,000

World leaders are to hold online crisis talks Thursday on the coronavirus pandemic that has forced three billion people into lockdown and claimed more than 21,000 lives. With the disease tearing around the globe at a terrifying pace, warnings are multiplying over its economic consequences, and experts are saying it could cause more damage than the Great Depression. Amid squabbling between the leaders of China and the US over who is to blame, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the world to act together to halt the menace. «COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity -- and the whole of humanity must fight back,» Guterres said, launching an appeal for $2 billion to help the world's poor. «Global action and solidarity are crucial,» he said. «Individual country responses are not going to be enough.» The global lockdown -- which rolled through India's huge population this week -- tightened further Thursday as Russia announced it was grounding all international flights. Economists say the restrictions imposed around the world to fight the virus could cause the most violent recession in recent history. «The G20 economies will experience an unprecedented shock in the first half of this year and will contract in 2020 as a whole,» ratings agency Moody's said. Unemployment rates are expected to soar -- as much as 30 percent in the US, according to James Bullard, president of the St Louis Federal Reserve. Europe will also suffer. «We think the unemployment rate in the eurozone will surge to about 12 percent by the end of June, giving up seven years' worth of gains in a matter of months,» said David Oxley of London-based Capital Economics. Leaders of the G20 major economies will hold a virtual huddle later Thursday in the shadow of such dire predictions. «As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges to healthcare systems and the global economy, we convene this extraordinary G20 summit to unite efforts towards a global response,» tweeted the king of Saudi Arabia. Saudi currently holds the rotating G20 presidency. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said richer nations needed to offer support to low and middle income countries, including those in Sub-Saharan Africa. The devastating effect on poorer countries was laid bare Thursday, when the Philippines announced that nine frontline doctors had died after contracting COVID-19. Three large Manila hospitals said this week they had reached capacity and would no longer accept new coronavirus cases. Hundreds of medical staff are undergoing 14-day self-quarantines after suspected exposure, the hospitals said. - Gun rush - The death toll from the virus, which emerged in China late last year, continued to grow, with the US becoming the sixth country to hit four figures. At least 1,050 people are now known to have died in the United States, with almost 70,000 confirmed infections, a tally by Johns Hopkins University showed, while globally the number of infections is closing in on half a million. The rocketing infection rate in the US has sparked a rush to buy weapons, gun store owners told AFP, with customers panicking about social breakdown. «A lot of people are buying shotguns, handguns, AR-15 (semi-automatic rifles), everything,» said Tiffany Teasdale, who sells guns in Washington state. «A lot of people are scared that someone is going to break into their home... to steal cash, their toilet paper, their bottled water, their food.» Around half of the US population is under lockdown, but President Donald Trump said he would decide soon whether unaffected parts of the country can get back to work. «We want to get our country going again,» Trump said. «I'm not going to do anything rash or hastily. »By Easter we'll have a recommendation and maybe before Easter,« said Trump. The White House, which has been criticised for its lacklustre response to the mushrooming crisis, has repeatedly lashed out at Beijing over the disease. On Wednesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Group of Seven powers were united against China's »disinformation« campaign. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman infuriated Washington by suggesting on Twitter that US troops brought the virus to Wuhan, the metropolis where it was first detected late last year. - Stigmatising - Scientists believe the new coronavirus came from a market that butchered exotic animals. »Every one of the nations that were at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place,« Pompeo told reporters. But any notion of unity after the videoconference among the G7, which also includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, was dashed by the lack of a joint statement -- often a formality at such gatherings. Reports suggested the statement was scuttled by Pompeo's insistence that it use the term »Wuhan virus« -- a formulation frowned upon by medical professionals who say it is stigmatising. Individual stories of heartbreak continued to emerge. At La Paz University Hospital in Madrid, nurse Guillen del Barrio sounded bereft as he related what happened overnight. »It is really hard, we had feverish people for many hours in the waiting room,« the 30-year-old told AFP. »Many of my colleagues were crying because there were people who are dying alone, without seeing their family for the last time." © Agence France-Presse

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