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5G rollout in Seychelles met with mixed views on speed, price and health

Residents in Seychelles have mixed views on the recent rollout of a new next-generation 5G network. Cable and Wireless Seychelles launched its 5G network last week at the Eden Bleu hotel in partnership with Huawei, a Chinese multinational telecommunications
Seychelles News Agency

5G rollout in Seychelles met with mixed views on speed, price and health

Residents in Seychelles have mixed views on the recent rollout of a new next-generation 5G network. Cable and Wireless Seychelles launched its 5G network last week at the Eden Bleu hotel in partnership with Huawei, a Chinese multinational telecommunications company. The company's chief executive, Charles Hammond, said, «In spite of all the rumours of health hazards, 5G is a totally safe technology with no scientific link to any disease.» A concerned citizen, Christopher Lespoir, told SNA on Tuesday that a proper assessment should have been done before introducing the network in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. «I am not against the advancement of technology, but I believe that we should maintain a balance when coming up with new innovations. Everything has its positive and negative side. Therefore we should have weighed the pros and cons through discussion before we proceeded with it,» said Lespoir.                    He added that «first of all we should look at the health issues as laid out in different documentations. I was reading a report published by the World Health Organisation, which stated that it's only in 2022 that they will be able to give an opinion on the use of 5G.» The principal secretary of the Department of Information, Communications and Technology, Benjamin Choppy, said that there is no real documentation that shows that 5G has health hazard implications to it. «As regulators, we are looking at it as new development and innovation. We have observed that there is a lot of concern raised by the public on the health problems it may cause. For now, we are following guidance from the World Health Organisation,» said Choppy. Cable and Wireless Seychelles launched its 5G network last week at the Eden Bleu hotel. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY 5G is the fifth generation of cellular technology and it promises to enhance the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. It is around 10 to 100 times faster than a typical cellular connection and a physical fibre-optic cable going into a house. The 5G network in Seychelles will cover the capital Victoria, and the central Mahe district of Roche Caiman and the airport. It will gradually cover the whole of Mahe in the coming months. Enrique Sofola said that the biggest question is the affordability and there is a big difference between the speed and the price. «Already I was subscribing to a 4G package with Cable & Wireless. Days before rolling out 5G I noticed that my internet was very slow and I still had to pay the same price. I was subscribing to the most expensive package of highest speed internet. Now I have seen that my subscription has been put last on the package list with slowest speed internet and it seems that people are being forced to move to 5G and to pay more,» said Sofola.  With regards to price, Choppy believes that it is the market that dictates the price and the more competition in that area, the price of internet should go down. The chief executive of Cable and Wireless said that the 5G package will not be cheap because customers will need a minimum of 100 gigabytes in order to use the network as it is 1 gigabyte per second. Savio Morel, 25, said that the 5G is a good innovation for Seychelles and that «this will offer users more choice in the market. With the 5G network, it will save up time and reduce frustration when we are using the internet. Definitely I will be among the people to subscribing to it.» Customers of Cable and Wireless will be able to experience CWS’ 5G network as from July when packages will be released.

World Bank approves $ 15 million loan to help Seychelles counter COVID's economic effects

The World Bank has approved a $15 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support Seychelles' response to the economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Bank said this week that the loan will help e
Seychelles News Agency

World Bank approves $ 15 million loan to help Seychelles counter COVID's economic effects

The World Bank has approved a $15 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support Seychelles' response to the economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Bank said this week that the loan will help enhance the country's response mechanisms in health, social protection and the private sector, and it will support the country's post-crisis recovery through strengthened financial systems and climate resilience.  «This financing will ultimately contribute to protect the most vulnerable as well as build economic resilience for future shocks,» noted Mark Lundell, the country director for Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. When answering questions in a live press conference last Thursday, the President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, warned that the pandemic has put the country in crisis and that if the situation continues the island nation will face more difficult times ahead. Elizabeth Agathine, the principal secretary for economic planning in the finance ministry told SNA via email that the support «will assist the country in stabilising its macroeconomic situation. The funds will go towards the financing of the amended budget which was approved earlier in April.» A World Bank economist and the operation's co-task team leader, Sashana Whyte, said that «protecting jobs in these uncertain times is indeed paramount given the devastating effects of this global pandemic on Seychelles economy, particularly on the tourism and fishery sectors.»  Already 91 businesses have filed for permission to make employees redundant as they cannot sustain their activities from which nearly 190 Seychellois workers could lose their jobs.   The loan will also help to offset losses of revenues among hard-hit private sector operators by helping secure payment of salaries, as well as temporarily lessening the tax burden for businesses, thus enhancing liquidity and maintaining their viability during the pandemic.  Through the loan, the World Bank will also provide support for the Seychelles’ Climate Change Policy which aims to strengthen the long-term resilience of key sectors such as tourism and protect economic development in the vulnerable coastal zone. Earlier this year, the World Bank gave Seychelles a $6.9 million line of credit that has been transferred into the country's international reserves.  The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response.

Botswana reports mysterious deaths of hundreds of elephants

Hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana's famed Okavango Delta, the wildlife department said Thursday, ruling out poaching as the tusks were found intact. The landlocked southern African country has the world's largest elephant population, e
Seychelles News Agency

Botswana reports mysterious deaths of hundreds of elephants

Hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana's famed Okavango Delta, the wildlife department said Thursday, ruling out poaching as the tusks were found intact. The landlocked southern African country has the world's largest elephant population, estimated to be around 130,000. «We have had a report of 356 dead elephants in the area north of the Okavango Delta and we have confirmed 275 so far,» Cyril Taolo, the acting director of the department of Wildlife and National Parks, told AFP in a text message. He said the cause of the deaths was yet to be established with anthrax having been ruled out. «We do not suspect poaching since (the) animals were found with tusks,» he said. Samples have been collected and sent to specialised laboratories in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Canada for testing. Similar deaths were first reported in May when authorities found 12 carcasses in just a week in two villages in the northwest of the country. «It seems they were dying very suddenly in some cases,» conservation biologist, Keith Lindsay told AFP, adding that the deaths were sudden. «The carcases were animals that had fallen down while walking... right on their sternum which is very unusual,» said Lindsay. «Up to now there doesn't seem to be any clear sign of the reason for it. When something like this happens it is alarming.» - «All ages and sex» - The latest discoveries were flagged by a wildlife conservation charity, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), whose confidential report referring to the 356 dead elephants, was leaked to the media on Wednesday. EWB suspects the elephants have been dying in the area for about three months. According to the report dated June 19, 2020, «70 percent of elephant carcasses were considered recent, having died about a month ago, and 30 percent of the carcasses appeared fresh, ranging from one day to two weeks old». «There was good evidence to show elephants of all ages and sex appear to be dying,» said the report penned by EWB director Mike Chase. Several live elephants appeared to have been weak, lethargic and emaciated, with some showing signs of disorientation, difficulty in walking or limping, EWB said. «One elephant was observed walking in circles, unable to change direction although being encouraged by other herd members,» said the report. For conservationist Neil Fritt the strange phenomenon is «tragic» but appears to be «more like a natural occurrence as opposed to direct human cause,» he told AFP. Botswana has an overpopulation of elephants which President Mokgweetsi Masisi has flagged as the source for much of the human-animal conflict in the country. In February the southern African country held its first major auction for trophy elephant hunting quotas since controversially scrapping a hunting ban last year. But the hunting season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic © Agence France-Presse

Outside Europe, nations floundering in virus' first wave

As Europe begins its cautious reopening after weathering the pandemic's first wave in lockdown, many developing and middle-income countries continue to be battered by skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases. With infections still growing daily in India, Bangl
Seychelles News Agency

Outside Europe, nations floundering in virus' first wave

As Europe begins its cautious reopening after weathering the pandemic's first wave in lockdown, many developing and middle-income countries continue to be battered by skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases. With infections still growing daily in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nigeria among others, health experts warn that before the world can start buttressing for COVID-19's much-feared «second wave», it must help nations battling the virus now. The World Health Organization warned this week that the pandemic was «not even close to being over» even as European nations reopen their borders and millions head back to work. While the United States has had by far the highest caseload, there are growing fears over the fate of hugely populous nations whose COVID-19 curve is pointing inexorably upwards. India for example now has more than 566,000 confirmed cases and is registering nearly 20,000 new infections every day. Mexico has more than 220,000 confirmed cases, Pakistan nearly 210,000, and Bangladesh more than 150,000, with little sign of new infections slowing. - 'Quite worrying' - Trudie Lang, director of The Global Health Network at the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Medicine, described the trend as «really quite worrying». «Even though the numbers might not be completely accurate because we've not tested so many, the curve is still the same shape,» Lang told AFP. When COVID-19 emerged in China late last year, the government in Beijing rapidly imposed stringent lockdown measures in a bid to contain the outbreak. When in February European nations such as Italy and Spain uncovered clusters of the virus, they too adopted unprecedented limits on individual movement that eventually flattened the curve of new infections. Anant Bhan, a researcher in bioethics and public health policy, said heavily populated and decentralised countries such as India are struggling to keep lockdown measures effectively. «That makes it a bit more challenging for the healthcare system,» he told AFP. «We might not have one peak, we might have multiple peaks because the spread of infection is variable across the country.» - 'Far from peak' - For Azra Ghani, professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, the delayed rise in COVID-19 cases shows in part how successful countries have been until now in limiting the virus' spread. «If you go back a few months there was a large seeding into Europe and that caused widespread epidemics there,» she told AFP. «All these countries saw what was happening in Europe and reacted. The lockdowns appeared at a relatively early stage of epidemics. »As they've been coming out of lockdowns we're seeing infections building up in the same way it had initially in Europe, starting to spread in South America, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,« Ghani explained. For example Indonesia, the fourth most populous country on Earth, is registering around 1,000 new cases daily even as it eases lockdown measures. Hermawan Saputra, a public health expert at the Indonesian Public Health Association, told AFP the country was »still far from the peak of the pandemic«. Experts previously predicted the outbreak to peak in July. »But since Jakarta has relaxed (lockdown) we think the peak will be reached in August or September,« said Saputra. »This is honestly terrifying. Easing was premature and people misunderstood it as meaning they had complete freedom -- that's wrong.« In Afghanistan, which has more than 30,000 confirmed cases, restrictions on movement are still in place. But the public doesn't appear to be getting the message, according to senior health official Ataullah Saeedzai. »The lockdown is still in place, but people are not taking it seriously,« he told AFP. »People are not observing the lockdown, people are not observing social distancing.« - Health systems stretched - More worrying perhaps is that COVID-19 is now inundating countries whose health systems were lacking even before needing to respond to a pandemic. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation as home to more than 200 million, is registering 600-700 new cases a day. The government said in April its intensive care capacity stood at just 350 beds. Kema Onu, who works in Abuja for the AIDS Health Foundation, said Nigeria's health system was »not properly equipped« to deal with COVID-19. »How many ventilators do we have in the country to take care of people who are critically in need of it?« he told AFP. »It would amaze you that even if you walk into major health care facilities here in Abuja, the prevention and control plan is not completely in place. The health system is a total shambles.« In Pakistan, which has registered more than 200,000 cases, the central government has resisted nationwide lockdown measures, relying instead on local authorities to implement a patchwork of interventions. While the country has nearly 9,000 oxygenated ICU beds, Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told AFP the health system was on the brink of »collapse«. »Even after months into this crisis our hospitals still lack some of the very basic facilities. We lack in both technical equipment as well as human resources,« he said. And in Bangladesh, which an estimated additional 4,000 ICU beds to deal with COVID-19, hospitals are already facing oxygen shortages. »We are still at the climbing stage of the transmission,« said Muzaherul Huq, a former head of the government institute of epidemiology and a former WHO senior official, adding many hospitals lack a centralised oxygen system. The virus has also begun to spread in the country's vast cramped refugee camps that house almost one million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled neighbouring Myanmar following a 2017 military crackdown. - 'Early days' - And as it circulates in developing nations, the virus is targeting communities already hard hit by other diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Ghani said a number of vaccination programmes effecting millions of children had been interrupted by the pandemic. There is also growing evidence that women in heavily affected countries are seeking to give birth at home rather than risk catching the virus in hospital. »Many countries are already seeing overwhelmed hospital capacities and if they are over capacity for one disease that inevitably means other diseases are not being treated,« she said. As researchers scramble to find a COVID-19 vaccine, Lang said that poorer communities that traditionally lacked access to inoculations for other illnesses were at risk of missing out again. »Say we end up with a vaccine that's quite expensive and requires two or three doses,« she said. »What chance really is there of that getting everywhere? «The ideal vaccine works perfectly with one dose and is cheap. Remove any of those elements and you increase the risk that it won't be distributed equitably around the globe.» As much of Europe girds itself for a second COVID-19 spike, Ghani said the disease was likely to progress at different rates across the world, making its burden more like a continuum than a series of waves. «It's still early days -- most countries we won't have got more than 10-20 percent of the population infected and that's a long way off the level of spread that this virus could generate,» she said. «We're going to see this virus circulate until at least the end of the year and that poses a constant risk of reinfection whenever interventions are relaxed.» © Agence France-Presse

Need an island-inspired facemask? These 4 shops in Seychelles can help

The Department of Health has advised the public to wear face masks as a preventative measure against COVID-19 in areas where social distancing cannot be practised. Following this announcement, the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) announced tha
Seychelles News Agency

Need an island-inspired facemask? These 4 shops in Seychelles can help

The Department of Health has advised the public to wear face masks as a preventative measure against COVID-19 in areas where social distancing cannot be practised. Following this announcement, the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) announced that by July 8 wearing a mask on public buses will be mandatory. Aside from being able to buy facemasks in pharmacies and some retail shops, the public can also make their own mask or buy reusable ones. This week SNA took a look at four individuals and businesses sewing and selling reusable masks.   Island Shells Creations With very few readymade facemasks in stock in the shop, the owner of Island Shells Creations, Julianna Antat, advises that it better to make an order for the two-ply cotton reusable mask. With the buyer being able to choose the colour or pattern of their masks, orders can be made by visiting her shop or calling the owner of directly. Masks are available for both adults and children. Location: Island Shells Creations, Camion Hall Room 29, Victoria Contact: 2564421 Price: SCR25 (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   GOTCHA Covered For those on La Digue, Seychelles third-most populated island, Bikini Bottom is selling a wide range of island-inspired «high filtration, three-ply, washable, tropical masks.» Located on Praslin? No worries. For a fee of SCR30, the mask can be sent via Cat Rose. Through the Seychelles Post the service is free. The mask can be bought at the Panacea Healthcare Pharmacy on Mahe. Orders can be made through Bikini Bottom's Facebook page. Location: Bikini Bottom, Anse Severe, La Digue and the Panacea Healthcare Pharmacy at Anse Royale, Mahe Price: One for SCR199 or three for SCR 500 https://www.facebook.com/BikiniBottomSeychelles/photos/pcb.593101841321828/593100474655298/ Bikini Bottom/Facebook Photo License: All Rights Reserved   Myriam's Exclusive, Union Vale Stay safe and help the animals. The owner of Myriam's Exclusive says that for each mask sold, SCR10 will go towards the purchase of dog food for Pet Haven. Orders can be placed by sending a message or call 2791119, or by paying a visit to the workshop until 3 pm on working days. Location: Myriam's Exclusive, Union Vale. Contact: 2791119 Price: SCR35 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3197722643623080&set=a.826671957394839&type=3&theater Myriam's Exclusive/Facebook Photo License: All Rights Reserved   DA Extra designer face mask As a designer, Darren Esther is offering clients the option to customise their face masks. A basic mask comes at a cost of Scr40, however, the price goes up depending on the amount of work and material placed into the making of a designer mask. Through a collaboration, Joakim Barra from T Print, printing on masks will be a possibility soon. As per the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendation, the masks are being sewn using three-ply of fabric – either cotton or linen. Location: Department of Culture or upon order Contact: 2712186 Price: starting at SCR40 (DA Extra) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

Brazilian Amazon sees worst June in 13 years for forest fires

Amazon forest fires in Brazil increased by 19.5 percent in June compared to the same month last year, making it the worst June in 13 years, authorities revealed on Wednesday. June marks the start of the dry period and there were 2,248 recorded fires, leavin
Seychelles News Agency

Brazilian Amazon sees worst June in 13 years for forest fires

Amazon forest fires in Brazil increased by 19.5 percent in June compared to the same month last year, making it the worst June in 13 years, authorities revealed on Wednesday. June marks the start of the dry period and there were 2,248 recorded fires, leaving analysts expecting a worse year for the rainforest than the devastating 2019, which provoked anger throughout the world. The National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which follows fire alerts in real time on its website, has not recorded as many fires in June since reporting more than 3,500 in 2007. The worst is expected in August. Last year there were more than 30,000 fires that month, a threefold increase on the same month in 2018. Most forest fires in the Amazon are caused by arson and are directly linked to deforestation, often caused by crop farmers for cultivation. Deforestation in Brazil was very high this year before the dry season even began, with more than 2,000 square kilometers lost between January and May, a 34 percent increase on the same period in 2019, according to INPE. The Amazon environmental research institute estimates that 9,000 square kilometers of jungle already cut down since last year could go up in flames before August begins. Ecologists have accused far right President Jair Bolsonaro -- a notorious climate change sceptic -- of promoting deforestation by calling for the legalization of farming and mining activities in protected zones. Specialists also believe an increase in forest fires could increase breathing difficulties in a population already badly hit by the novel coronavirus. © Agence France-Presse

Nearly 190 Seychellois could lose jobs due to COVID slowdown

Nearly 190 Seychellois workers could lose their jobs after 91 businesses in Seychelles have filed for permission to make employees redundant as they cannot sustain their activities, said a top government official. The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted t
Seychelles News Agency

Nearly 190 Seychellois could lose jobs due to COVID slowdown

Nearly 190 Seychellois workers could lose their jobs after 91 businesses in Seychelles have filed for permission to make employees redundant as they cannot sustain their activities, said a top government official. The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted the Seychelles' tourism-based economy, causing a drastic drop in the value of the island nation's currency and an estimated contraction of the economy by negative 10.8 percent. The employment minister, Miriam Telemaque, told SNA that although the government is offering assistance to businesses to pay staff salaries «so far, 22 of the 91 have been processed and approved. The requests came from businesses across all sectors and it will affect 186 Seychellois workers.» President Danny Faure announced on March 20 that the government of Seychelles would budget funds to help retain jobs in private sector businesses that are suffering significant negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. A financial assistance for job retention committee was thus set up to help businesses pay the salaries of their employees for the months of April, May and June. An amendment in the Employment Act approved by the National Assembly in May makes provision for employers, especially those who have not been assisted by the government, to initiate negotiations with their employees on redundancies, layoffs, salary cuts among other issues. The amendment takes effect from July 1 but already some enterprises had started the procedures since March. A company has to file a request with the Department of Employment for permission to make employees redundant. The law provides for said employees to be paid all their dues if the request is approved. Meanwhile, a temporary scheme to assist workers who will be made redundant has been set up. Telemaque said the government will be taking those employees under a re-training, reskilling and redeployment scheme, which will guarantee them continuing to receive their basic salary while being placed in other areas where there is a demand for workers. 

Data downloads rise nearly 40 pct in Seychelles -- even before home confinement

Internet users in Seychelles used nearly 40 percent more data in the first three months of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, a rise that experts attributed to a reduction in data prices and an increase in high-definition video. Data usage ma
Seychelles News Agency

Data downloads rise nearly 40 pct in Seychelles -- even before home confinement

Internet users in Seychelles used nearly 40 percent more data in the first three months of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, a rise that experts attributed to a reduction in data prices and an increase in high-definition video. Data usage may increase even more in the second quarter of 2020 when the COVID-induced home confinement began and many people worked from home, students did online school work and families sought more home entertainment. A report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that mobile data downloads from January to March this year was 6 million gigabytes compared to 4.3 million gigabytes for the same three-month period in 2019. That's a year-over-year rise of 38 percent. The Principal Secretary of the Department of Information, Communications and Technology (DICT), Benjamin Choppy, told SNA that over the years there has been a natural increase in usage as more people download data. «Basically people are finding more things to do on the internet and are browsing websites that require a  download to be done to be able to view it. For example, many people are going on YouTube and are opting for quality videos. These videos are in a different format. A higher quality format such as HD uses more data when downloading,» he said. Choppy said that many people in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, are using Facebook and uploading large pictures and videos. Jeffery Dogley, director general of DICT, said that another reason which has led to the increase in data usage is the reduction in prices of internet packages and different promotions ran by different service providers in the island nation. According to World Internet Stats as of December 2019, there were 71,300 recorded internet users in Seychelles, a penetration rate of 72.5 percent. There were 71,000 Facebook subscribers for the same year. Fabio Morel, 35, said that many people are using the internet to access daily news.  «A lot has been going on since the beginning of this year. With the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, people have been hungry for news more than ever. Like myself, I like to be informed on the daily happenings. In the past few months I saw myself going on it more,» he said. During the restrictions on movement in Seychelles, some service providers also offered free internet package. There are four internet providers in Seychelles -- Intelvision, Airtel, Cable and Wireless and Kokonet. Albert Pool, 27, residing at Beau Vallon, a northern Mahe district, said that during the time of confinement «most of the time I have been in front of my laptop watching movies online. I have also been going on Facebook to watch live-screened music shows by local and international artists.» Restrictions on the movement of people in Seychelles were reinforced after the 11th positive case of COVID-19 was recorded on April 5 as a prevention measure. A rise in data usage during home confinement would be reflected in the National Bureau of Statistics data for the second quarter, April, May and June.

Belgian king expresses 'deepest regrets' over DR Congo colonial past

Belgium's monarch expressed his «deepest regrets» on Tuesday for colonial abuses in DR Congo, in an unprecedented gesture for his country that Kinshasa swiftly hailed as «balm» for the Congolese. King Philippe made his remarks in a le
Seychelles News Agency

Belgian king expresses 'deepest regrets' over DR Congo colonial past

Belgium's monarch expressed his «deepest regrets» on Tuesday for colonial abuses in DR Congo, in an unprecedented gesture for his country that Kinshasa swiftly hailed as «balm» for the Congolese. King Philippe made his remarks in a letter to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, on the 60th anniversary of Congo's independence on June 30, 1960. The death of African American George Floyd last month as he was being arrested by police in the US city of Minneapolis has also stoked fresh debate in Belgium over its colonial record. Belgium's colonisation of the vast mineral-rich country was one of the harshest regimes imposed by European powers that ruled most of Africa in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The scars remain, with two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line and the country riven by conflict and instability. «I want to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past whose pain is reawakened today by the discrimination still present in our societies,» Philippe said. Historians say that millions of Africans from areas in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo were killed, mutilated or died of disease as they worked on rubber plantations belonging to Leopold II, king from 1865-1909. - 'Suffering and humiliation' - Philippe, without mentioning Leopold by name, said that during this period «acts of violence and cruelty were committed which weigh on our collective memory». «The colonial period which followed (1908-60) also caused suffering and humiliation,» he said. On the day Congo broke away from Belgian colonial rule, the country's prime minister and independence icon Patrice Lumumba delivered a scathing speech about the racist maltreatment. «We experienced the slurs, the insults, the beatings that we had to undergo morning, noon and evening, because we were negroes,» he proclaimed. DR Congo Foreign Minister Marie Ntumba Nzeza, in statement to AFP, said the king's letter was «balm to the heart of the Congolese people. »This is a step forward that will boost friendly relations between our nations.« - 'Journey of truth' - King Philippe said he would combat all forms of racism and wanted to encourage reflection on the issue begun by the Belgian parliament. Several statues of Leopold, who ruled between 1865 and 1909, have been daubed with paint or torn down by protesters in Belgium in recent weeks, and a petition has been launched for their removal. On Tuesday, the city of Ghent will mark the 60th anniversary of Congolese independence by removing a statue of Leopold. »The time has come for Belgium to embark on a journey of truth,« said Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes in Brussels during a ceremony marking Congo's independence day. »All work of truth and memory begins with acknowledging the suffering of the other,« she added. The French-speaking daily Le Soir welcomed the royal intervention in an editorial: »Finally, this gesture, so necessary, which lifts the King and his country.« Through concession companies, Leopold II used forced labour to extract rubber in Congo, among other things. Harsh treatment -- up to the cutting off of hands for unproductive workers -- have been documented. According to most historians, the violence did not stop after Leopold II, and a regime of strict separation of blacks and whites was maintained for decades. Lambert Mende, the former spokesman of Tshisekedi's predecessor, Joseph Kabila, said Belgium should pay reparations. »People should be willing to repair the damage in terms of investment and compensation with interest. That's what we expect from our Belgian partners.« Herve Diakiese, spokesman of a citizen's movement called Congolais Debout (Congolese, Stand Up), echoed him. »This belated remorse can only be accepted after adequate reparations for these atrocities which enabled the personal enrichment of Leopold II and his friends,« he said. »Belgium's mischief-making after independence on June 30 1960 to control the DRC's minerals should also feature among reparation issues," he said, adding that looted Congolese artefacts should also be returned. © Agence France-Presse

Hotel shutdowns in Seychelles straining Public Utilities Corporation's bottom line

The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have not only caused the tourism sector to shut down in Seychelles but is causing financial strain on the island nation’s utility company, the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC), which provides the island nation wit
Seychelles News Agency

Hotel shutdowns in Seychelles straining Public Utilities Corporation's bottom line

The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have not only caused the tourism sector to shut down in Seychelles but is causing financial strain on the island nation’s utility company, the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC), which provides the island nation with utility services. With tourism establishments including large hotels closed since March, PUC says its revenue is being impacted. The chief executive of the company, Philippe Morin, told SNA that the tourism sector represents important clients for PUC. “With the situation of COVID, PUC as a company is seriously and financially affected, because what we are seeing is a considerable reduction in energy consumption by hotels and some industries as a result of that we are seeing a reduction in revenue,” said Morin. According to Morin “hotels as customers bring in substantial revenue for the company, and surplus generated from sales in the tourism sector helps to cross-subsidise electricity domestic consumers and water and sewerage customers. This situation, therefore, is having an adverse financial impact on PUC. We will continue to be affected until probably the end of the year when hopefully the situation returns to normal.”  Some of the projects currently being implemented by the company include the replacement of non-performing pipes, increasing intake of raw water from surface sources,as well as the refurbishment of the greater Victoria sewerage system. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY  PUC is a public corporation established in 1986 to manage and operate the electrical, water and sewage services in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. PUC is the only company providing electricity, water and sewerage services to customers on the three main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. With a workforce of over 900, PUC delivers electricity to 28,000 customers and water to more than 29,000 customers and provides sewerage services to over 3,000 customers. “The adverse consequences which COVID-19 is having on PUC’s financial resources will be felt by employees, and operations, as well as programme for projects, will be affected That means that there will be fewer resources available for projects across the board. Because how do you finance your project? You finance it from your surplus, your loan and subvention from government,” explained the chief executive. Morin said that the company is keeping its board of directors and parent ministry – the Ministry for Environment, Energy and Climate Change – informed on the challenges as PUC says it cannot stop projects whose implementation have started. However, all new projects have been put on hold. PUC says it cannot stop projects whose implementation have started. However, all new projects have been put on hold. (Statehouse) Photo License: CC-BY  Some projects currently being implemented by the company includes the replacement of non-performing pipes,  increasing intake of raw water from surface sources, the democratisation of solar photovoltaic, as well as the refurbishment of the greater Victoria sewerage system. The Public Utilities Corporation says that if it cannot get financial assistance from the government it will have no choice but to take commercial loans in order to continue with its investment programmes so as to ensure the continuity and security of services.r from surface sources, the democratisation of solar photovoltaic, as well as the refurbishment of the greater Victoria sewerage system.

2nd seafarer from Spanish fishing fleet in Seychelles admitted to COVID isolation centre

A second seafarer from a Spanish fishing fleet operating in the Seychelles' waters who tested positive for COVID-19 has been admitted to the isolation centre at Perseverance, a top health official said on Tuesday. The chief executive of the Health Care Agenc
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2nd seafarer from Spanish fishing fleet in Seychelles admitted to COVID isolation centre

A second seafarer from a Spanish fishing fleet operating in the Seychelles' waters who tested positive for COVID-19 has been admitted to the isolation centre at Perseverance, a top health official said on Tuesday. The chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Danny Louange, told a press conference that the second seafarer was admitted on Monday. «We were called by their doctor because he had a fever. We admitted him for us to do further investigation. Currently, he has no fever, he is asymptomatic. So we have only two patients in our isolation centre,» he said. Louange said currently Seychelles has 70 active cases and all of them are seafarers who arrived in the island nation on June 23. They are all quarantined on board several vessels in a quarantine zone at the harbour. «The first seafarer was admitted initially when we started testing and we kept him in isolation because he had a fever but does not have any other symptoms,» he added. As for people in quarantine, Louange said that there are 96 people at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay facility and 22 at the new South East Island quarantine centre.  Those in quarantine are Seychellois citizens who were stranded abroad and who returned to the country through various repatriation flights. As per the established guidelines of the Department of Health, all returning citizens, as well as foreigners coming to Seychelles, have to go into quarantine in one of the centres. However, a family of three was allowed to go into home quarantine. «This family includes a child, whom according to our rules in place would be difficult to administer to in quarantine, so they were allowed to go into home quarantine. Before they went, our team visited their home to see if it met the requirements and was satisfied that it does,» he said. Louange gave the reassurance that the local staff at the isolation centre is well trained and able to manage the current situation. Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, has two main isolation facilities and access to other life-sustaining equipment such as ventilators at the Intensive Care Unit of the Seychelles Hospital. He said that the shipping line's management through its local agents is cooperating closely with the Department of Health in the management of the 70 cases.

Planned floating solar plant in Seychelles delayed because of COVID complications

The construction of a floating solar PV power plant in Seychelles will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a top official said recently. Seychelles announced its plan to install a utility-scale floating solar PV system, the first in Africa, in April 2
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Planned floating solar plant in Seychelles delayed because of COVID complications

The construction of a floating solar PV power plant in Seychelles will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a top official said recently. Seychelles announced its plan to install a utility-scale floating solar PV system, the first in Africa, in April 2018. Construction of the system which will be located on the lagoon at Le Rocher, in the central Mahe district of Les Mamelles, was due to start this year. The chief executive of the Seychelles Energy Commission, Tony Imaduwa, told SNA that due to the COVID-19 situation issuance of the notice of intended award was delayed as the selected bidder will not be able to meet all the conditions set. Imaduwa said that some of the conditions required the bidder to be in the country to finalise the technical design of the plant but this has not taken place with the restriction on travel to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. The CEO said that now that the notice of intended award has been issued, the successful bidder Quadran will have around five months to meet the conditions set before construction can start. «It is a crucial stage of the process. Maybe there will be some cost implications but the project is based on an Independent Power Producer (IPP) model where the IPP will have to finance, design, construct and operate the plant and sell electricity at a fixed rate over a period of time,» said Imaduwa. The project is Seychelles' first independent power producer meaning the private sector will be responsible for designing, financing, building, and operating the power plant, selling electricity to the national grid at a predetermined price for 25 years. Quadran was selected from a competitive process based on the lowest rate to sell electricity generated from the PV plant to the local Public Utilities Corporation which is 9.5 US cents. The power purchase agreement is scheduled to be signed in the next few months and the construction starting soon after. Once installed and running, the utility-scale floating solar PV system is expected to contribute around 5.8 GWh annually. This will contribute to a reduction in fossil fuel importation which translates to savings in foreign exchange for the country. The energy from the new project is also expected to equate to 1.6 percent of the Seychelles' energy target set for 2030. Imaduwa said that the system «is an innovative way of addressing our land constraint and demonstrates the country's commitment to combat climate change.»

IMF warns pandemic set to undo decade of progress in Africa

The coronavirus pandemic could set back incomes in sub-Saharan Africa by a decade as weak oil prices, a tourism standstill and business lockdowns shrink the region's economy 3.2 percent in 2020, an IMF official said Monday. Activity is expected to recover i
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IMF warns pandemic set to undo decade of progress in Africa

The coronavirus pandemic could set back incomes in sub-Saharan Africa by a decade as weak oil prices, a tourism standstill and business lockdowns shrink the region's economy 3.2 percent in 2020, an IMF official said Monday. Activity is expected to recover in 2021, but countries first will have to get through a year in which many will see tepid growth at best, while those that rely on commodities or tourism will suffer severe declines. «It is a worrisome picture, really, in terms of the economic outlook, and really reflects the continuing weak global economic environment that countries in the region face,» Africa director for the International Monetary Fund Abebe Aemro Selassie told AFP. The continent is grappling with more than 383,000 cases of coronavirus, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The IMF on Monday released its updated outlook for sub-Saharan Africa, showing the downturn is set to cause a drop in real per-capita income of as much as 15 percent in all but two countries, meaning the region overall will suffer a decline of 7.0 percent, back to where it was a decade ago. With oil prices low globally, crude exporters will be badly hit. Nigeria is expected to shrink by 5.4 percent and Angola by 4.0 percent, its fifth straight year of economic contraction. Flight bans and health concerns mean less tourists, and the IMF expects the Seychelles to shrink by 13.8 percent in 2020 and Mauritius by 12.2 percent. Even diversified economies will suffer. Ethiopia's GDP is expected to grow just 1.9 percent in fiscal year 2020 then «stall completely» the following year, the IMF said. South Africa, the continent's most-industrialized economy -- which also has the highest number of recorded coronavirus infections -- will contract 8.0 percent in 2020 due to lockdowns imposed to curb the virus, a risk Abebe said countries across the continent face. «Unfortunately, the region remains still on the exponential side of how the pandemic is playing out in the vast majority of countries,» he said. «Absent vigilance, there's no reason why we cannot expect the same kind of dynamics that we've seen elsewhere in terms of the pandemic.» - Fear of spillovers - The Washington-based crisis lender has moved quickly to roll out support programs to help African economies weather the downturn, with aid totaling up to $10 billion over the last two months or so, and more to be announced, Abebe said. Africa also stands to benefit from debt relief agreed to in April by the G20 representing the world's largest economies. There is «strong willingness to provide» the relief and about 25 countries have applied, though details are still being discussed with some creditors, Abebe said. The world's poorest continent is expected to rebound in 2021 with growth in sub-Saharan Africa of 3.4 percent, assuming lockdowns have eased and the pandemic does not get markedly worse with a second wave of infections. But given the tentative nature of the «phase one» trade deal between the United States and China, and Washington's threat of new taxes on European goods amid a trade feud, Abebe warned that wider tensions could threaten Africa's recovery. «A tense geopolitical environment, one which leads to adverse trade outcomes, growth outcomes, economic outcomes, will also have some spillover on the region.» © Agence France-Presse

China passes feared Hong Kong security law

China passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub's freedoms and hollow out its autonomy. The legislation was unanimously approved by China's ru
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China passes feared Hong Kong security law

China passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub's freedoms and hollow out its autonomy. The legislation was unanimously approved by China's rubber-stamp parliament, little more than six weeks after it was first unveiled, sending shockwaves through semi-autonomous Hong Kong and beyond. The United States, Britain, the European Union and the United Nations rights watchdog have all voiced fears the law could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which wields similar laws on the authoritarian mainland to crush dissent. In an unprecedented decision, the law bypassed Hong Kong's fractious legislature and the wording was kept secret from the city's 7.5 million inhabitants. «The national security law for Hong Kong was officially passed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee today,» the DAB, Hong Kong's largest pro-Beijing party, said in a statement on Tuesday welcoming the law. Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao -- two Hong Kong newspapers that serve as conduits for Beijing's official policy -- also confirmed the passing of the law, as did multiple local Hong Kong media outlets citing anonymous sources in Beijing. Even as word filtered out that the law had been approved, Hong Kongers remained in the dark about its contents and what might now constitute a crime. At her weekly press conference on Tuesday morning, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam -- a pro-Beijing appointee -- declined to comment on whether the law had been passed or what it contained. - 'End of Hong Kong' - «The fact that Hong Kong people will only come to know what's really in this new law after the fact is more than preposterous,» Claudio Mo, an opposition lawmaker, told AFP. Prominent democracy campaigner Joshua Wong tweeted: «It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before. With sweeping powers and ill-defined law, the city will turn into a #secretpolicestate.» Wong and three fellow campaigners announced they were stepping down from Demosisto, the pro-democracy party they founded. Hong Kong was guaranteed certain freedoms -- as well as judicial and legislative autonomy -- for 50 years in a deal known as «One Country, Two Systems». The formula formed the bedrock of the city's transformation into a world class business hub, bolstered by a reliable judiciary and political freedoms unseen on the mainland. Critics have long accused Beijing of chipping away at that status in recent years, but they describe the security law as the most brazen move yet. A summary of the law published by the official state agency Xinhua earlier this month said China's security agencies would be able to set up shop publicly in the semi-autonomous city for the first time. Beijing has also said it will have jurisdiction over some cases, toppling the legal firewall that has existed between Hong Kong and the mainland's party-controlled courts since the 1997 handover. Analysts said the security law radically restructures the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong. «It's a fundamental change that dramatically undermines both the local and international community's confidence towards Hong Kong's »One Country, Two Systems« model and its status as a robust financial centre,» Hong Kong political analyst Dixon Sing told AFP. - Defence exports - On the mainland, national security laws are routinely used to jail critics, especially for the vague offence of «subversion». Beijing and Hong Kong's government reject those allegations. They have said that the laws will only target a minority of people, will not harm political freedoms in the city and will restore business confidence after a year of historic pro-democracy protests. Millions took the streets last year while a smaller hardcore of protesters frequently battled police in increasingly violent confrontations that saw more than 9,000 arrested. Hong Kong authorities have banned protests in recent months, citing previous unrest and the coronavirus pandemic, although local transmissions have ended. Some western nations warned of potential repercussions for Beijing ahead of the security law's passing. However many are wary of incurring Beijing's wrath and losing lucrative access to the mainland's huge economy. Washington -- which has embarked on a trade war with China -- has said the security law means Hong Kong no longer enjoys sufficient autonomy from the mainland to justify special status. In a largely symbolic move, the United States on Monday ended sensitive defence exports to Hong Kong over the law. Britain had said it was willing to provide a «pathway to citizenship» for millions of Hong Kongers if the security law went ahead. © Agence France-Presse

Over 10 million coronavirus cases registered worldwide: AFP tally

The total number of coronavirus cases has topped 10 million globally, according to an AFP tally on Sunday, as the pandemic surges particularly in the United States and Latin America. At least 10,003,942 infections, including 498,779 deaths, have been registe
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Over 10 million coronavirus cases registered worldwide: AFP tally

The total number of coronavirus cases has topped 10 million globally, according to an AFP tally on Sunday, as the pandemic surges particularly in the United States and Latin America. At least 10,003,942 infections, including 498,779 deaths, have been registered around the world, according to a count at 0930 GMT based on official sources. Europe remains the hardest hit continent with 2,637,546 cases including 195,975 fatalities, while the United States has 2,510,323 infections including 125,539 deaths. The rate of infections worldwide has doubled since May 21, with one million new cases recorded in just the last six days. In Latin America alone, more than 400,000 new cases were registered in the past week, while India's total topped 500,000 on Saturday, with a record 18,500 in one day. The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases and some do not have the capacity to carry out widescale testing. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of people infected in the United States is 10 times the official figures, or more than 20 million people. The disease is gaining ground in 30 of the 50 states, mainly the biggest and most populous in the south and west such as California, Texas and Florida. In Latin America and the Caribbean the virus is spreading the most rapidly. Between June 21 and 27 the region registered 408,401 new cases, compared with 253,624 in the US and Canada and 121,824 in Europe. In total, Latin America has 2,432,558 infections with 110,695 deaths. Brazil is the worst affected with 1,313,667 cases -- 246,088 in the last seven days, followed by Peru (a total of 275,989 with 24,651 new in the last week), Chile (267,766 total, 31,018 new), Mexico (212,802 total, 37,600 new) and Colombia (88,592 total, 22,959 new). Asia is also facing a surge in cases, particularly in India which has a total of 528,859 infections including 118,398 over the past seven days. India is followed by Pakistan (202,955 total, 26,338 new) and Bangladesh (137,787 total, 25,481 new). In Europe, the number of cases recorded daily has stabilised over the past month at fewer than 20,000, but the World Health Organization has warned of a «significant resurgence» on the continent. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles quietly marks National Day without usual celebrations

Seychelles observed a quiet 44 years of independence on Monday with no customary national activities for the first time amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2015, June 29, which marks the day Seychelles gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, is ce
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles quietly marks National Day without usual celebrations

Seychelles observed a quiet 44 years of independence on Monday with no customary national activities for the first time amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2015, June 29, which marks the day Seychelles gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, is celebrated as the National Day, and usually the highlight every year is a military parade at the Unity Stadium at Roche Caiman, though no parade will be held this year. In his national address to mark this day, President Danny Faure, wished all Seychellois here and around the world a happy Independence Day and called on everyone to come together. «This year we must celebrate our National Day differently given the public health emergency, and we all have to respect the guidance to avoid large public gatherings during this period. I thank you all for your understanding and spirit of solidarity.» Faure said that during the 44 years, Seychelles has accomplished a great deal and Seychellois have worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to bring the country to where it is today. «Unfortunately, the world and Seychelles was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seychelles and countries around the world have been badly affected; and as a small country, we are suffering from the severe impact of COVID-19 on our economy,» he added. The head of state said that moments of crisis are also moments of opportunity, and in this difficult time «let us take the chance to reflect on what we can do – individually, as a family, as a community, and as a nation – to get through these difficult times and reclaim our path to progress.» This was echoed by Roger Mancienne, the Leader of the opposition party Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS). «This year, we celebrate under a dark cloud as we face a very difficult time ahead. It is right that we speak of national unity. Our nation was born with this promise that we would live as one people, able to work together to overcome dangers that threaten all of us, and to achieve goals that serve us all,» said Mancienne. President Faure said, «Our Independence Day is a date that unites us all and is a powerful symbol of our national unity. Let us renew our commitment as citizens to reinforce our national unity. Let us promote this unity and spirit of working together to ensure we get through this storm together as a nation.» «Today is a moment of pride for our small blessed country and despite the difficulties, despite the tough times we will continue to go even further. With unity, with devotion to our motherland and the willingness to pull together for Seychelles, we will triumph. This is the key to our wellbeing and our future,» Faure added. The Leader of LDS said that although this year's anniversary is more solemn than in other years and without extravagant ceremonies or parties «it does not stop us from celebrating what is truly the most important. That is, that we are a free people, with laws and institutions that protect the rights of everyone.» Mancienne joined together with other leaders of LDS, their Members of the National Assembly and district representatives to extend the best wishes to Seychellois everywhere for Independence Day.  

4 more sailors in Seychelles test COVID positive; re-tests show 3 other false positives

Three foreigners who had tested positive for COVID-19 in Seychelles have been re-tested and their results came back negative, while four more mariners among the Spanish fishing crew tested positive, said a top health official on Sunday. The Public Health Com
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4 more sailors in Seychelles test COVID positive; re-tests show 3 other false positives

Three foreigners who had tested positive for COVID-19 in Seychelles have been re-tested and their results came back negative, while four more mariners among the Spanish fishing crew tested positive, said a top health official on Sunday. The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a press conference that the three foreigners – a French lady, an Emirati and a Filippo -- were all retested on Saturday. The French lady had been in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, since March while the Emirati and the Filipino were in quarantine at home. «They were retested given the fact that we could not explain why their tests were positive epidemiologically speaking based on the contacts and investigations that we've done,» said Gedeon. «For the French lady she has been retested and it is negative. For the two persons, the Emirati and the Filipino who had come from the United Arab Emirates 10 days ago, they were living in the same environment with people who came with them and none of the others had tested positive. We could not explain that, that's why they were retested. They have been tested negative as well,» added Gedeon. Meanwhile, tests were carried out on 197 crew members from West Africa on Spanish vessels fishing tuna in the Seychelles' waters.   Gedeon said that tests have been completed on the crew member and four more were tested positive bringing the total to 70 positives and that five results are still inconclusive and need to be resampled and retested. «For the 70 they have been isolated on fishing vessels that are in a quarantine zone in the harbour on various vessels belonging to two different local companies. They are well and do not have any symptoms. There is only one person who has a fever and is at the Perseverance treatment facility,» he added. As for people in quarantine, the chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Danny Louange, said there are 94 people in quarantine at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay facility, 29 at Ile du Suette and others at the Coast Guard facility at Perseverance. These include the 55 Seychellois who were repatriated after they were stranded in several European countries.  

Study shows sooty tern flying from Seychelles to Thailand

Juvenile sooty terns have been recorded flying from the eastern coast of Africa to off the coasts of Myanmar and Thailand in the search for food, data collected from an ongoing study shows. In September last year, 14 fledgeling sooty terns from the Bird Isla
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Study shows sooty tern flying from Seychelles to Thailand

Juvenile sooty terns have been recorded flying from the eastern coast of Africa to off the coasts of Myanmar and Thailand in the search for food, data collected from an ongoing study shows. In September last year, 14 fledgeling sooty terns from the Bird Island colony were tagged with satellite tracking tags and monitored to better understand the species. The project is being led by Rachel Bristol in collaboration with Bird Island Eco-Lodge Seychelles, Chris Feare and Christine Larose. Through the projects, the individuals are tracking the feeding habitats of juvenile sooty terns to better understand the open ocean environments surrounding Seychelles. The project hopes to add to the over 30 years of research done on the species in the Bird Island colony to determine the connection between the populations of the seabirds and the health of open ocean ecosystems. The Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) said in a press release that «if sooty terns are abundant, then their prey species of small fish and squid are likely equally numerous pointing to a healthy open ocean ecosystem. Scientists hope to utilise these findings to better inform sustainability efforts such as the marine spatial plan and strengthen international collaboration for ocean conservation.» Through the projects, the individuals are tracking the feeding habitats of juvenile sooty terns to better understand the open ocean environments surrounding Seychelles. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY Sooty tern is a migratory seabird of tropical oceans which sleeps during flight,  returning to land only for breeding - on islands throughout the equatorial zone. This large, black-backed tern is found throughout the world's tropical seas and is the most abundant seabird in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.  In Seychelles, sooty terns are more widely known for their eggs, which are available for sale during certain months of the year. Commonly known as 'dizef zwazo' in the native Creole language, the speckled egg has a bright orange yolk, compared to other eggs with yolks which are usually yellow in colour. It is a delicacy that can be cooked as an omelette, hard-boiled and eaten with a pinch of salt or prepared as a salad. Data collected from the satellite tracking devices attached to the fledgeling showed for the first time the incredible distances that juvenile sooty terns fly in search of food. From the eastern coast of Africa to the seas off the coasts of Myanmar and Thailand, the feeding grounds for Sooty Terns helps illustrate the interconnectedness of the marine environment. 

Malawi opposition leader wins presidential vote re-run

Malawi's opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera won this week's presidential election re-run with 58.57 percent of the vote, the electoral commission said Saturday. It was a dramatic reversal of fortune for the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, whose victory in the Ma
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Malawi opposition leader wins presidential vote re-run

Malawi's opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera won this week's presidential election re-run with 58.57 percent of the vote, the electoral commission said Saturday. It was a dramatic reversal of fortune for the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, whose victory in the May 2019 election was overturned by the Constitutional Court, citing widespread fraud. Some 6.8 million voters in the southern African country had returned to the polls on Tuesday. And on Saturday, electoral commission chairman Chifundo Kachale told journalists: «The commission declares that Lazarus Chakwera, having attained 58.57 percent of the vote, has been duly elected as the president of Malawi.» Mutharika came second with 1,751,377 votes, while underdog candidate Peter Dominico Kuwani received 32,456. Voter turnout was 64.81 percent. The announcement was met with loud cheers and applause as opposition supporters waved Malawi's red, black and green flag and chanted «Government!» in local Chichewa. In February, Malawi's top court found the first election had been marred by widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid to tamper with result sheets. The landmark ruling made Malawi just the second African country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017. «This is a win for Malawians, it is a win for democracy, a win for justice,» said an elated Chakwera after his victory was declared. «It is a win that will enable this nation to really reset and begin to build a new kind of Malawi in which all of us together will be involved.» Meanwhile, a jubilant crowd gathered for a fireworks display at the headquarters of Chakwera's Malawi Congress Party in the capital Lilongwe. - Calls for a third vote - Mutharika did not wish to comment on his defeat. Earlier Saturday, Mutharika had argued that the election re-run had been flawed, citing violence and intimidation against DPP monitors. «We have no further comment to make,» Mutharika's spokesman Mgeme Kalilani told AFP after the result. «The statement we made earlier today is adequate.» The outgoing president's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had on Friday called on Malawi's Electoral Commission (MEC) to annul the results of the second vote and declare a third election. «We expected an election without irregularities,» Mutharika told reporters in Blantyre before the official results were announced. «Sadly, as all Malawians have seen, this election is the worst in Malawi's history of our elections,» he added. «We believe most of the results that were sent to MEC are not a true reflection of the people.» Mutharika did not, however, echo his party's calls for another re-run. In power since 2014, he had won 38.5 percent of the discredited vote in which Chakwera garnered a close 35.4 percent. DPP administrative secretary Francis Mphepo in a statement highlighted «several incidents that may potentially affect the integrity and credibility of the presidential election results». The DPP listed polling stations from which their monitors were allegedly excluded and said more than 1.5 million votes had been marred by «violence and intimidation». - 'The circus is over' - «There is no doubt that these irregularities and malpractices will substantially affect the results in one way or another,» Mphepo continued. «We therefore seek... a declaration that the presidential election has been inconclusive.» Kachale, for the MEC, said all complaints had been «resolved». Political analyst Henry Chingaipe dismissed Mutharika's allegations as «total fabrication». «These are the kicks of a dying horse,» said Chingaipe, who heads the Malawi-based Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment. «In the history of this country, there has been no election as transparent as this, especially in the management of results.» Gift Trapence of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which led months of street protests against last year's election results, also dismissed the DPP's complaints. «He is in denial, he has always been in denial. But reality will catch up with him soon,» said Trapence. Chingaipe highly doubted the possibility of a second re-run. «The only way to get a fresh election is to make a compelling case in the High Court,» he added. «It is an uphill task, almost impossible, to build a credible case in court,» he told AFP. «The circus is over. There will be no such a thing as a fresh election.» © Agence France-Presse

COVID cases in Seychelles rise to 69; no plan to close borders

A French national, two visitors in the Emirati ambassador's entourage and seven more mariners tested positive for COVID-19 in Seychelles, bringing the total of active cases to 69, a top health official said on Saturday. Despite the sudden caseload after week
Seychelles News Agency

COVID cases in Seychelles rise to 69; no plan to close borders

A French national, two visitors in the Emirati ambassador's entourage and seven more mariners tested positive for COVID-19 in Seychelles, bringing the total of active cases to 69, a top health official said on Saturday. Despite the sudden caseload after weeks of COVID calm, Seychellois officials have no immediate plans to re-close the island nation's borders. The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a press conference on Saturday that the French woman who tested positive has been on vacation in Seychelles since March and did a PCR test as part of requirements for her to return home. Gedeon described the positive testing of the French national as an anomaly. «We have already started to trace people who may have come into contact with her. As it is this may be a possible community transmission case, as we cannot yet pinpoint where she may have been infected. We have done confirmation tests and we await the results to determine if hers is a true positive case,» he said. The French national and the two visitors who were in quarantine at the Beau Vallon Bay hotel facility have been transferred to the isolation centre at the Family Hospital at Perseverance. The seven mariners from West African countries joining a Spanish tuna fishing fleet in the Seychelles' waters tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday night, making it a total of 66 mariners who are infected. In light of the new cases, the local health authorities have renewed appeals for adherence to health safety guidelines, urging the population to better protect themselves by practising social distancing, maintaining good hygiene at all times and wearing masks. Meanwhile, all but one of the mariners who tested positive have been transferred back to their ships, where they are receiving medical assistance from the shipping line's doctor. They are being tested daily. One had a slight fever on Saturday and has been placed in the isolation facility. After about 19 weeks of not registering a single COVID-19 case, Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean has now moved from 11 to 69 over a couple of days. The positive cases come at a time when the government has announced the re-opening of the country's international airport to commercial passenger flights in August. Gedeon said that thus far there is no change in this plan.  

COVID-19 restrictions delaying Seychelles' major projects, including La Gogue Dam

The Public Utilities Corporation of Seychelles is raising concerns over the implications that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on its four major national projects. The four projects – the raising of the La Gogue Dam, the reinforcement of the 33KV undergroun
Seychelles News Agency

COVID-19 restrictions delaying Seychelles' major projects, including La Gogue Dam

The Public Utilities Corporation of Seychelles is raising concerns over the implications that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on its four major national projects. The four projects – the raising of the La Gogue Dam, the reinforcement of the 33KV underground and overhead networks, the refurbishment of the Praslin Power station, and the deployment of a solar PV farm on Ile de Romainville - are all crucial for the power and potable water security of the island nation. Though all of these projects are vital, the delay in the raising of the La Gogue Dam is the most concerning, the chief executive of the Public Utilities Company (PUC) told SNA on Friday. The project had previously been delayed because of protests by the local truck association PPTHA over their lack of participation in the project, the rainy season and the subsequent difficulties of the PPTHA to provide some of the specialised heavy plant utilised on the construction site. “With COVID-19, we had to comply with the lockdown requirements and work stopped at the La Gogue dam. But even now the works are still being affected. For example, highly skilled workers and specialists from China and other countries are still not able to enter the country. What we are seeing is a lack of specialist engineering supervision, to assist us with the supervision of the works,” explained Philippe Morin. Morin added that currently earthworks and other civil works are still ongoing at the project site but specialized tests and other works cannot proceed. Morin added that currently earthworks and other civil works are still ongoing at the project site but specialized tests and other works cannot proceed.  (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY  At the end of February just before the country went into lockdown 70 per cent of the work needed to raise Seychelles’ main reservoir by 6 metres was completed. It was expected that the La Gogue dam -- whose storage will increase by 600,000 cubic metres to 1.6 million cubic metres -- would be operational at the end of June. But now the dam is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2021, but only if the country is not hit with a second wave of COVID-19 and if travel restrictions are eased up and specialised workforce can fly in. La Gogue Dam is the main supplier of potable water in the northern region of the main island of Mahe and to ensure supply, PUC has had to increase it taking of raw water from major sources such as Mare Aux Cochons and Anse Major. The completion of the solar PV farm, a five-megawatt solar photovoltaic system on the man-made island Romainville, is also being delayed. The farm, the first in Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - will produce around 7 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year. Though all equipment for this project is already on-site, the project cannot progress without foreign experts to assist PUC with the commissioning. The 33KV project which involves the enhancement of South Mahe electricity transmission system through the construction of new 33kV underground and overhead lines is another project experiencing delays due to COVID-19. Once commission, PUC will have a robust electricity transmission and distribution network feeding electricity to areas in the south of Mahe thus enhancing the reliability and quality of electrical supply.  The farm, the first in Seychelles will produce around 7 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year. (Archive: Patrick Joubert) Photo License: CC-BY  Morin explained that the project, which was already being delayed by wayleave issues and other technical factors, is now expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of next year. On Praslin, the second-most populated island of Seychelles, the pandemic has slowed down refurbishment work on the island's only power station. The Baie Ste Anne power station has an effective capacity of 11MW and also supplies electricity to La Digue - the third-most populated island - via an underwater cable. «The refurbishment of the Praslin power station has to do with improving the acoustic performance of the station. However, we have made considerable progress and we hope to complete the work in 40 days' time,» explained Morin. The chief executive said the delays are not affecting their loan obligations to foreign financial institutions, however, PUC is in continuous negotiations with all the contractors. «Contractors working on those delayed projects will need extended time to complete the works,” said Morin, adding “all their claims for damages will be scrutinized naturally fairly and we will  only accept claims that are justifiable.» 

Madagascar's 'Colosseum' sparks outrage

On the highest hill overlooking Madagascar's capital Antananarivo, on the site of a sacred pool and within the grounds of a royal palace, an uncanny piece of architecture is rising -- a concrete Roman-style amphitheatre. The scheme is a pet project of Presid
Seychelles News Agency

Madagascar's 'Colosseum' sparks outrage

On the highest hill overlooking Madagascar's capital Antananarivo, on the site of a sacred pool and within the grounds of a royal palace, an uncanny piece of architecture is rising -- a concrete Roman-style amphitheatre. The scheme is a pet project of President Andry Rajoelina, who claims it will showcase the Indian Ocean island's history and culture. But the scheme is sowing discord across the country, with critics deriding it as Rajoelina's «Colosseum» and destructive of the country's heritage. Few paid attention when the plans for the edifice were revealed over a year ago, with the goal of inaugurating it in time for Madagascar's 60th anniversary of independence from France in 2020. Back then, Culture Minister Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy described the amphitheatre as a venue to «re-enact the history of our country in an educational, popular and cultural manner.» But eyebrows began to be raised as «Masoandro» -- «Sun» in the Malagasy language -- began to take shape. Among the first to take aim were descendants of the sovereigns who occupied the Rova palace, a historic site which dates to the 17th century. «We thought it would only involve simple ornamentation,» said Christian Raoelina, grandson of the brother of Queen Ranavalona III, who in the late 19th century was Madagascar's last monarch. «Our surprise when we saw the height of the building was all the greater,» he said. «We had not understood that the construction would bring major changes to the palace's landscape.» A charity association, the Friends of Madagascar Heritage (APM), was also startled by the Ancient Roman design. «It seems evident that aside from its incongruity, this structure has nothing to do with the site's original architecture, the history of Madagascar and its culture,» APM's president, Desire Razafindrazaka, said. Razafindrazaka warned the «colosseum» would pose a threat to the royal palace's listing as a UN World Heritage Site. - Safeguard not deform - In a February letter, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) itself deplored the damage to Antananarivo's «exceptional universal value». The opposition has also fired verbal volleys, denouncing the «massacre» of a «sacred place» and «historical symbol». Rajoelina accused his detractors of «bad faith» and brushed aside parallels beween the Masoandro and the huge gladiatorial arena in central Rome. «The call for tenders was open from August to September last year and published in the most popular newspapers... for a whole week,» the president said last month. Raoelina complained the descendants should have been consulted as «heirs and owners of royal tombs», particularly given the arena was being erected on a «sacred site». «The role of the state is to safeguard, rehabilitate and maintain the patrimony of the past,» said artist Jean Andrianaivo Ravelona. «Not to deform or trample it with new constructions.» Early this month, the public academy of culture and customs suggested staging national consultations to resolve the issue. «We need to admit that as things stand, this construction is dividing the nation,» its president, Raymond Ranjeva, told AFP. But Rajoelina briskly shut down the proposal, making clear he would push ahead with his scheme. «Do we want to restore national pride, yes or no?» asked the president rhetorically. He defended the cost -- estimated at the equivalent of $1.6 million (1.4 million euros) -- and claimed that, when finished, the amphitheatre would lure thousands of visitors to see the palace. But hopes that the building would be inaugurated in time for Madagascar's diamond jubilee on Friday have been dashed. © Agence France-Presse

50 more new fishing crew members in Seychelles test positive for COVID-19, bringing total to 59

Fifty more crew members of the Spanish fleet fishing tuna in the Seychelles' waters have tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the total to 59, the Department of Health said Friday. The Department said it has taken samples from 198 seafarers and has obtaine
Seychelles News Agency

50 more new fishing crew members in Seychelles test positive for COVID-19, bringing total to 59

Fifty more crew members of the Spanish fleet fishing tuna in the Seychelles' waters have tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the total to 59, the Department of Health said Friday. The Department said it has taken samples from 198 seafarers and has obtained 146 results. Tests are being conducted on 52 others; those results will be updated Saturday. The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a press conference that the 59 seafarers who have tested positive are now in isolation on three of the fleet’s vessels which have been turned into isolation centres to deal with the situation. They are under the supervision of a doctor and have all the facilities required to manage their situation. “At the moment none of them is showing any symptoms of being ill with COVID-19, but if any were to do so, they would be transferred to the Ile Perseverance Hospital for treatment,” Gedeon said. The 59 seafarers are from Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ghana. They were tested in Senegal and Ivory Coast and their results came out negative, thus enabling them to get the COVID-19 free certificate which is a requirement for entry into the Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Gedeon said that the Department of Health is doing its best to find out what went wrong and where. “These men were all tested at World Health Organisation accredited laboratories in the two countries. They were tested at the internationally renowned Institut Pasteur laboratories and we are collaborating with the WHO to get to the bottom of the matter,” he said. Other than the 204 crew members on the fleet, there are nine Seychellois who work as observers from the Seychelles Fisheries Authority. Gedeon said the Seychellois had minimal contact with the mariners who tested positive, but as a precautionary measure, they have been placed in quarantine at the Beau Vallon Bay Hotel facility. The possibility of repatriating the crew members who tested positive is an option which health authorities in Seychelles and the agent of the shipping line are considering. “First of all, we will have to find an airline which is prepared to take them on board. Then they will have to be accepted in those countries where they transit and even in their own country of origin, we will have to get a guarantee that they will be accepted there; before we can go for repatriation,” said the Public Health Commissioner. 

Global action required to counter COVID's economic toll, Seychelles' president tells Commonwealth leaders

Global action is required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse economic impacts, especially on the more vulnerable countries, President Danny Faure told Commonwealth leaders in a virtual meeting this week. Faure chaired the first Commonwealth
Seychelles News Agency

Global action required to counter COVID's economic toll, Seychelles' president tells Commonwealth leaders

Global action is required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse economic impacts, especially on the more vulnerable countries, President Danny Faure told Commonwealth leaders in a virtual meeting this week. Faure chaired the first Commonwealth COVID-19 virtual leaders meeting convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat to discuss common challenges, exchange ideas and solutions, and develop collaborative strategies in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. «All countries are deciding how best to open up to international travel and tourism.  It is critical that the world agrees on a harmonised set of standards that all must follow, similar to what happened after 9/11,» Faure said during the Wednesday meeting. He added that the Commonwealth should call upon international travel organisations like the International Civil Aviation Organisation, International Air Transport Association and United Nations World Tourism Organisation to agree with the World Health Organisation on universal health standards to be used by all international airports and airlines. Faure gave an overview of the current difficulties that Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is facing. «The global crisis has induced a significant decline in our tourism-based economy with a substantial increase in unemployment, a drastic drop in the value of our currency and an estimated contraction of our economy by negative 10.8 percent. This is the case in 2020, but it is clear that it will take several years for our economy to recover and many more years before we reach the level of pre-COVID-19,» he said. Faure added that Seychelles cannot access international development aid, including loans at preferential rates to fund its post-COVID-19 recovery and adaptation efforts.  «We are in dire need of fiscal space to support our recovery efforts,» he said, while stressing that the pandemic «highlights the arguments which small islands developing states have for several decades been making on how inappropriate is the GDP per capita criteria to determine eligibility to official development assistance.» He concluded in thanking the Commonwealth Secretary General not just for calling this virtual meeting of leaders, but also for bringing the organisation to a higher level. On her side, the Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, highlighted the shared vulnerability that shows the need for solidarity and collaboration. «Our solidarity is vital to defeat this pandemic, regenerate our communities and take on the economic and environmental challenges that this planet faces, and defeat the corrosive stain of racism which would seek to tear us apart,» she said. The virtual meeting saw the participation of 45 member states represented by heads of state or government representatives.  

Former Burundi president to be buried in state funeral

Thousands of Burundians on Friday lined the road to the capital Gitega as the body of former president Pierre Nkurunziza was escorted under heavy security for a state funeral after his sudden death earlier this month. Nkurunziza, who ruled the country for 1
Seychelles News Agency

Former Burundi president to be buried in state funeral

Thousands of Burundians on Friday lined the road to the capital Gitega as the body of former president Pierre Nkurunziza was escorted under heavy security for a state funeral after his sudden death earlier this month. Nkurunziza, who ruled the country for 15 years, died at the aged 55 of what the government said was «heart failure». But speculation is rife he may have caught the coronavirus, as his wife had been flown to Nairobi for treatment for the virus just two weeks prior. The funeral ceremonies began with an «homage by his wife, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, his children and those close to him» in an intimate gathering at the hospital in the central city of Karuzi where he died on June 8, a governmental source told AFP on condition of anonymity. Nkurunziza died shortly after an election won by his handpicked successor Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was sworn in last week. Friday was declared a national holiday for the funeral, and school children in uniform, and citizens lined the roads waiting for the funeral convoy to pass. The stadium in Gitega where the funeral ceremony is to be held was packed with citizens from across the country, all dressed in white at the request of authorities. Nkurunziza will be buried at a monument recently built in Gitega at the site of another structure which was to be dedicated to victims of the country's various crises over the years, but was never inaugurated. Nkurunziza, a devout evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to lead Burundi, left behind a deeply isolated country in political and economic turmoil. His 2015 run for a third term in office sparked protests and a failed coup, with violence leaving at least 1,200 dead while some 400,000 fled the country. A climate of fear marked by a crackdown on the opposition and media settled over Burundi, while a personality cult grew around Nkurunziza which saw the ruling party name him a «visionary» and «supreme guide for patriotism.» UN human rights investigators have said the period since 2015 has been marked by likely crimes against humanity committed by state forces, citing extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, torture and sexual violence. © Agence France-Presse

President: 9 new cases of COVID-19 in Seychelles; Chief Justice resigns

Nine new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Seychelles, President Danny Faure said Thursday during a live press conference. Faure effectively announced six new cases one day after the health authority confirmed three cases among newly arrived sailors,
Seychelles News Agency

President: 9 new cases of COVID-19 in Seychelles; Chief Justice resigns

Nine new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Seychelles, President Danny Faure said Thursday during a live press conference. Faure effectively announced six new cases one day after the health authority confirmed three cases among newly arrived sailors, bringing the total to nine. The cases occurred among the 205 seafarers from western African countries who arrived on Tuesday for a crew change for 26 Spanish vessels currently fishing tuna in Seychelles' waters. The head of state said that whilst the pandemic is still ravaging the world it is important to protect the country.  At the same time, he said the economy cannot shut down as this will result in grave economic consequences. «We cannot stop businesses. The country is at a time where we cannot make this mistake. What we need to do is manage. When Seychelles had 11 cases, the world had 1 million cases, today when we, all together, have 20 cases, the world has 9 million cases.   This means that we are living in a world where this will continue. So, it is important that we live in a world where there is a balance where economic activities continue,» explained Faure. All of the previous 11 patients with COVID recovered.  Meanwhile, the head of state also confirmed that Justice Mathilda Twomey has tendered her resignation which will come into effect in September. Twomey has served as the island nation Chief Justice since August 2015. «I have great respect for the Chief Justice and we have a good working relationship. She did make a declaration at the reopening of the courts of her decision and she also explained why she took the decision to step down this year. I can confirm that I did receive an official letter from her on the subject,» said Faure. The head of state said that he will later meet with Judge Twomey to discuss the content of her letter. On the issue of European Union vessels fishing tuna in Seychelles' waters, Faure confirmed that the government is looking at the possibility of having its own fleet of tuna vessels. «A fleet of tuna fishing boats is on the table. Minister Bastienne (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) and the chairman of the SFA (Seychelles Fishing Authority) are working on this but it is not something that will happen tomorrow but this is on the table being discussed at this moment,» said Faure. Given the dire economic situation because of COVID's crippling effect on tourism, the president warned that people in the public sector working for the government in Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - face the risk of losing their jobs. «The scale of the economic crisis in Seychelles will demand that the size of the government is examined if the crisis continues. If the economic and financial situation deteriorates, this will dictate that adjustments are done. And how the adjustments are done is equally important. But for now, this is not on the table. But if the economic and financial situation deteriorates it will be inevitable,» he explained. The president warned that the pandemic has put the country in crisis and that if the situation continues the island nation will face more difficult times ahead. On the issue of the presidential election, Faure said that it is important to respect the election process in place as the tentative dates for presidential elections were announced for October. When asked about his running mate, Faure remained elusive on who it is but confirmed that he does have a candidate. «Who is my running mate? This will only be revealed at the appropriate time,» he said. 

6 more crew members on Spanish fleet test positive for COVID, raising total to 9

Six more crew members of a Spanish fishing fleet operating in the waters of Seychelles have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to nine, the Department of Health said on Thursday. The announcement from the health department came after Jude Gedeo
Seychelles News Agency

6 more crew members on Spanish fleet test positive for COVID, raising total to 9

Six more crew members of a Spanish fishing fleet operating in the waters of Seychelles have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to nine, the Department of Health said on Thursday. The announcement from the health department came after Jude Gedeon, the Public Health Commissioner had announced two new cases earlier in a press conference. He had emphasised the fact that the testing of the new crew members has not finished yet and that once done the Department will give a more complete report latest Saturday. Around 205 seafarers from western African countries arrived on Tuesday for a crew change for 26 Spanish vessels in the Seychelles' waters. Gedeon said that as per the protocol in place, «If a person is positive even if there are no symptoms we are not going to let them circulate among other people. We have to put them in isolation and monitor them. When they become negative we will release them.» Meanwhile, Gedeon said that a tool known as a QR (quick response) code will be used once passengers start arriving in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. «You can scan it with your phone and it will lead you directly to a page that will allow you to report if you have symptoms and this links with the surveillance unit. All visitors who will come in will scan this. We are also working with Airtel for an app that will allow us to do better surveillance,» said Gedeon. On his side, the chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Danny Louange, said for the time being «there are 63 people in quarantine – 43 at the Berjaya hotel and at the Coastguard facility we have just received 15 people from Sri Lanka and these were patients and their attendants. The five seafarers who tested positive are in a zone in the Family Hospital.» Louange said the five seafarers do not have symptoms, are not sick and have been placed in the Family Hospital for observation. The four new confirmed cases have also been placed at the same hospital at Perseverance. «For repatriation, we have a flight arriving today with Seypec marine crew members and on Sunday we will have a flight with people who are stranded in Europe. For the time being there are 75 persons on the flight and this can be revised,» he added. On the question as to what lessons have the Department of Health learnt from the current situation, Gedeon said that it showed that a country can never be prepared enough. He added that as part of the precaution measures, the Department went through the World Health Organisation (WHO)  to look at the laboratories where the tests were being done and ensured that they were accredited to Institut Pasteur. Public Health Authority requirements necessitated an exit screening, which includes PCR as well as rapid antibody tests for COVID-19, within three days prior to the seafarers' departure from their home countries. All the laboratory results sent to and reviewed by the Authority were negative.  «We spoke to the French ambassador this morning and they are already in contact with the two laboratories to find out how this happened. They believed that there may have been a breach in their quarantineprocedure or the technic used to take samples from the seafarers were not efficient,» said Gedeon.

Madagascar unveils new domestic vehicle, eyes export market

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina on Wednesday unveiled prototypes of a new brand of locally-made cars and motorbikes which are expected to hit the roads in three years. GasyCar is the second brand of automobiles manufactured in the Indian Ocean island na
Seychelles News Agency

Madagascar unveils new domestic vehicle, eyes export market

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina on Wednesday unveiled prototypes of a new brand of locally-made cars and motorbikes which are expected to hit the roads in three years. GasyCar is the second brand of automobiles manufactured in the Indian Ocean island nation after Karenjy, which was launched by the government in 1984. «We will sell in the national market, but we are also thinking of exporting to Africa and around the world,» Rajoelina said. A GasyCar plant is to be built this year and the first models are expected to reach the market by 2023. Prototypes of GasyCar motorbikes and SUV models were shown at the launch. Madagascar's local car industry hit the global stage in 1989 when Karenjy produced two popemobiles for Pope John Paul II's visit. Another popemobile was built for Pope Francis in 2019. But Karenjy can only make a dozen cars a year. The starting price is around 6,500 euros ($7,300). The hand-made vehicles are rustic and lack conveniences such as electric windows or airbags, making it hard for them to compete with imported brands despite their affordability. Rajoelina vowed to boost Madagascar's limited industrial capacity after his election in 2018. The island is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 90 percent of the population surviving on less than two dollars per day. © Agence France-Presse

Virus cases surge in Americas as IMF warns of economic carnage

More than 78,000 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the US and in Brazil alone Wednesday, as the IMF laid out the unprecedented economic devastation caused by the global pandemic and the WHO warned the number of infections could reach 10 million worldwid
Seychelles News Agency

Virus cases surge in Americas as IMF warns of economic carnage

More than 78,000 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the US and in Brazil alone Wednesday, as the IMF laid out the unprecedented economic devastation caused by the global pandemic and the WHO warned the number of infections could reach 10 million worldwide within the next week. As many countries emerged from lockdown hoping to resurrect their economies, US states were reimposing virus restrictions and Brazilian experts were warning the country was sending people «to the slaughterhouse.» The International Monetary Fund said that this «crisis like no other» would send the global GDP plunging by 4.9 percent this year and wipe out an astonishing $12 trillion over two years. It said that many countries will face a recession more than double that which they suffered during the global financial crisis in 2008-2009. The IMF forecast that China, where the virus emerged late last year, would be the only economy that grows this year, by just one percent. The United States is forecast to shrink by eight percent, Germany slightly less, while France, Italy, Spain and Britain would all suffer double-digit contractions. - 'Slaughterhouse' - The United States has recorded more deaths than any other nation, with more than 121,000 from nearly 2.4 million cases. The number of new cases has been on a clear upward trend in recent days, especially in the south and west of the country. On Wednesday the US recorded more than 35,900 cases in 24 hours, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University, a figure which approaches previous record daily levels. White House advisor Anthony Fauci warned the next two weeks would be «critical to our ability to address... surgings» in Florida, Texas and other states. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state, which was one of the most aggressive about reopening, could see new restrictions. «If it's not contained in the next couple of weeks, it will be completely out of control, and Texas will have to ratchet back,» the Trump ally said in televised comments. Latin America has been one of the world's worst hotspots for weeks, and the number of deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed 100,000 on Wednesday. Brazil was the hardest-hit country, with its new cases surpassing even the US -- over 42,700 recorded Wednesday. «The curve in Brazil is still rising sharply. We're still in the first wave,» said Domingos Alves, a professor of medicine at the University of Sao Paulo and member of a scientific committee monitoring the crisis. «We're sending people to the slaughterhouse» with moves to exit lockdown too soon, he added. - 'Urgent responsibility' - World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the global number of cases would reach 10 million within the next week, after four million cases were recorded just in the last month. The global figure currently stands at over 9.3 million. «We have an urgent responsibility to do everything we can with the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives,» he said. WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan warned that the pandemic had not yet reached its peak in the Americas. He said it was «particularly intense in Central and South America» where many countries saw «between a 25 and 50 percent rise in cases over the last week,» and added that «the spectre of further lockdowns cannot be excluded.» Globally, the number of COVID-19 deaths surged past 480,000 after doubling in less than two months, according to an AFP tally. - Eiffel Tower to reopen - China said a new outbreak that has infected 256 people in Beijing since early June is «under control,» but fears remain over the risk of community transmission. Hard-hit Europe is reopening from lockdown -- but in Britain, medical experts warned of the «real risk» of a second wave and called for a swift review into the government's handling of the outbreak. Experts have also warned that an early summer heatwave across the continent could lead to a surge in infections as people hit beaches and parks while ignoring social distancing measures. No masks were worn by participants -- and few by spectators -- at a huge parade in Moscow during World War II commemorations on Wednesday. The pandemic also continues to cause havoc in global sports, with New York cancelling its famed marathon which had been planned for November 1. But there was one bright spot: Tourists and Parisians will beginning Thursday again be able to admire the view of the French capital from the Eiffel Tower after a three-month closure due to the coronavirus -- but only if they take the stairs, with the lifts deemed too small for safe social distancing. © Agence France-Presse

$ 10 million African Development Bank loan to support opening of Seychelles' economy

Seychelles has received a loan of $10 million from the African Development Bank (ADB) to support the government's COVID-19 response programme. The loan, approved on Monday in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, will be used for macroeconomic stabilisation, strengthenin
Seychelles News Agency

$ 10 million African Development Bank loan to support opening of Seychelles' economy

Seychelles has received a loan of $10 million from the African Development Bank (ADB) to support the government's COVID-19 response programme. The loan, approved on Monday in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, will be used for macroeconomic stabilisation, strengthening the national health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as safeguarding livelihoods and social safety nets. With the shutdown of the tourism industry -- the main pillar of the island nation's economy -- the Seychelles' government is facing major challenges to keep the economy afloat. In a communique released by the bank on Tuesday, the acting Director-General for the Bank's East Africa Regional Office, Nnenna Nwabufo, said the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been more devastating than the disease itself in Seychelles. Tourism is one of the worst hit-industries globally, yet it is the main source of income for Seychelles, accounting for 25 per cent of its GDP.« Nwabufo added the Bank's support will augment the government's efforts aimed at cushioning the country against the impacts of the pandemic.» Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 14, and had 11 confirmed cases, all of which have fully recovered with no new cases or deaths. Faced with declining revenues, the Seychelles government in March amended its budget to respond more effectively to COVID-19, taking on an immense financial burden as it works to enhance the country's health systems, mitigate job losses, and redress lost business and household incomes. The amended budget provides for an additional $3.6 million to the health sector, which will help put in place robust early-detection surveillance systems and enhanced testing capability at points of entry. The government is also readying isolation and quarantine facilities ahead of the resumption of international flight arrivals. The government has also committed to safeguarding 37,409 private-sector jobs through provision of a six-month wage grant while also increasing allocations to the national Social Protection Agency to widen safety nets for informal workers and other vulnerable groups. The crisis response program is aligned with the bank's ten-year strategy and its five areas of high priorities, specifically «improve the quality of life of the people of Africa». The communique from the ADB said insufficient economic diversification, a small domestic market and vulnerability to external economic and environmental shocks are among the main development challenges Seychelles' economy faces. «The pandemic has seriously exacerbated these challenges and wiped out some of the country's development gains. The Bank has revised the 2020 and 2021 GDP growth rate projections for the country downwards, from 3.3 percent and 4.2 percent to -10.5 percent and -7.7 percent, respectively,» said the statement. The loan from the African Development Bank is the latest assistance received from international financial institutions. In April and May this year the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund also assisted the island nation in the form of a line of credit and emergency assistance totalling to $38 million.

3 crew members of Spanish fleet in Seychelles' waters test positive for COVID-19

Three crew members of a Spanish fishing fleet operating in Seychelles' waters tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health said Wednesday. The members were part of 207 African mariners entering Seychelles on Tuesday as part of a crew changing exerc
Seychelles News Agency

3 crew members of Spanish fleet in Seychelles' waters test positive for COVID-19

Three crew members of a Spanish fishing fleet operating in Seychelles' waters tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health said Wednesday. The members were part of 207 African mariners entering Seychelles on Tuesday as part of a crew changing exercise for the Spanish tuna fishing fleet. The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon told a press conference that “as per Public Health Authority requirements, an exit screening, which include PCR as well as rapid antibody tests for COVID-19, was conducted, within three days prior to their departure from their home countries. All the laboratory results sent to the Public Health Authority and reviewed by that Authority were negative.” However, rapid testing carried out by the shipping line once the sailors were on board their respective vessels, showed that 20 of them showed traces of COVID-19 in their system. Gedeon said that the shipping line’s local agents Land Marine and Hunt Deltel contacted the Department of Health and the necessary actions were initiated to confirm the findings and implement containment measures. Health professionals went on board seven of the ships and retested 11 of the 20 mariners. “It was dark and due to the weather condition, our staff could not board the other vessels. Out of the 11 men that we carried out PCR tests, three showed positive results. However, all the men are fine. None of them is showing any symptoms and none of them is ill,” added Gedeon. He said that in line with strict procedures in place the men who tested positive have been put in isolation on board their ship and the whole crew is now quarantined on board their respective vessels. The Public Health Commissioner also confirmed that the seafarers came on Air Seychelles and that this was done under very strict controls with limited contact with the staff. The seafarers all wore masks throughout the journey and their immigration and transportation procedures were carried out under strict adherence to standard operating procedures in place. Though Seychelles has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19 after having 11 people previously test positive, the case of the fishing crew underscores the continued risk that COVID could enter the island nation through air and seaports as the nation hopes to re-open to tourists in August. The incident comes just one day after a national framework for integrated management of the re-opening of Seychelles frontiers to commercial flights in August was unveiled. Last week, the National Assembly voted for the ratification of a six-year European Union-Seychelles sustainable fisheries partnership agreement. Under the agreement, 40 European Union vessels are licensed to fish in the waters of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Currently, only 27 are active - mostly Spanish and French purse seiners. Fisheries is the second top contributor to the island nation's economy but with the lack of tourists visitors due to travel restriction in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a greater reliance on the sector as one of the main drivers of the economy in the short run.  

Seychelles to re-open borders to low-, medium- risk COVID countries on Aug. 1

Seychelles will re-open its border to commercial passenger flights from low- or medium-risk COVID-19 countries beginning of August to revive the tourism sector with a new structure put in place to manage the re-opening, said a top health official.  The Publ
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles to re-open borders to low-, medium- risk COVID countries on Aug. 1

Seychelles will re-open its border to commercial passenger flights from low- or medium-risk COVID-19 countries beginning of August to revive the tourism sector with a new structure put in place to manage the re-opening, said a top health official.  The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a press conference on Tuesday that the Aug. 1 reopening will be done under a national framework for the integrated management of reopening Seychelles' borders. Under the framework, countries are classified in three risk categories; low, medium and high risk.  Gedeon said the three categories are based on “the trends in outbreak, potential for travellers to get infected, testing pattern, ratio of recent case to one month ago and the quality of data.”  He pointed out that countries in the low risk category which are part of the island nation’s tourism markets currently are Switzerland and Ireland. The countries which are the main markets for Seychelles such as Germany, Italy and France are in the medium risk group with England still in a high risk category.  Based on these criteria, the authorities “can decide from which countries we can allow visitors and what they have to do before they can come to Seychelles without putting our country at a higher risk.”  Although the passengers will not be quarantined, they will have to observe certain regulations under the national framework.  This includes a mandatory PCR test done 72 hours before departure for visitors coming from medium-risk countries and an antigen test for those from low-risk countries.  “The second filter is how the booking is done. It has to be done through travel agents and visitors need to have their booking voucher,” said Gedeon, adding that “visitors will stay in establishments approved by the Ministry of Tourism.”  Additionally, airlines are already boosting security measures onboard their aircraft to make travelling safer.  Although visitors will not be placed in quarantine as of Aug. 1, the establishment where they will be staying must be aware of where they are through maintaining daily movement records.  Gedeon added that “when the visitors are at their respective accommodation, they will not have to wear face masks, but should they use public transport, such as buses or taxis they will have to do so. The taxi drivers will have to keep a log of the visitors who avail of their services. This will be used as a tracking measure.”  Before the reopening in August, two evaluations of the measures will be carried out on July 14 and 21.  Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is free of COVID-19 and reopened its international airport to commercial flights for private jets and chartered flights on June 1.

Social distancing, good hygiene to be practiced on Seychelles' beaches, minister says

Seychelles' Beach Control Committee will need to take measures to ensure that social distancing and good hygiene practices are being followed on the island nation's beaches as the country re-welcomes tourists in August, said the tourism minister. The Ministe
Seychelles News Agency

Social distancing, good hygiene to be practiced on Seychelles' beaches, minister says

Seychelles' Beach Control Committee will need to take measures to ensure that social distancing and good hygiene practices are being followed on the island nation's beaches as the country re-welcomes tourists in August, said the tourism minister. The Minister for Tourism, Didier Dogley, told the press on Tuesday, that there is a need to start this discussion now as «there aren't many foreign visitors in the country, or going to the beach.» «We have seen in other countries, where tourists are already flying in, that there are various measures being taken, and we will need to do the same. We will need to make sure that social distancing and hygiene are practised accordingly,» he said. The Beach Control Committee was set up in February this year and was tasked with the sustainable management of all beaches so Seychelles can maintain its image with tourists as a world-class beach destination. The minister explained that despite the fact that the committee was set up before COVID-19 became a global issue, Seychelles had to focus its attention on other priority areas when the virus became a pandemic and hence placed aside the work that the committee had planned. «We had to focus on other things other than the major issues that we face with managing and controlling some activities that are detrimental to the tourism industry and also the use of the beach in general. We would like to continue, as in various meetings that I have been in on the three main islands, people have been asking us to continue working on some of the issues that were affecting the tourism industry before COVID-19,» said Dogley. He added that it was outlined during these meetings that there is a need to «ensure that by the time the tourism industry restarts at least we will have measures in place and will be ready to have a better tourism industry in the country.» The minister said that the beach of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is of paramount importance as «it is the most unique selling point» of the island nation. «We always sell this pristine and unique kind of natural environment that is still very much intact. We have seen that during the past couple of years that there has been a proliferation of activities on the beach itself - people selling all sorts of things, putting up beach beds, playing loud music and partying until late into the night, and disturbing others, some carry out illegal activities, and there are crimes that happen,» said Dogley. The committee includes the Seychelles Police, department of environment, Enterprise Seychelles Agency,  Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association and the Seychelles Planning Authority. Dogley explained these different institutions have been brought together as each of them has a responsible role to play in the areas of concerns. «We basically want to get everybody to take their role seriously and address those issues that are impacting on the enjoyment of the beach by those who are paying a lot of money to come here,» said Dogley. He added that other than there activities that negatively impact the images of beaches in Seychelles, in certain circumstances, there is a lack of facilities that people can use such as toilets, showers, and lockers. In view of the country's economic downturn, the government will not be able to finance the construction of these facilities this year. 

Virus pushing millions of South Asia children into poverty, says UN

More than 100 million children in South Asia could slip into poverty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a UN report said Tuesday of the long-term impact of the crisis. Cases across the densely populated region -- home to almost a quarter of the world'
Seychelles News Agency

Virus pushing millions of South Asia children into poverty, says UN

More than 100 million children in South Asia could slip into poverty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a UN report said Tuesday of the long-term impact of the crisis. Cases across the densely populated region -- home to almost a quarter of the world's population -- have risen in recent weeks even as the region lifts its lockdown to revive economies badly shattered by the virus. «While they may be less susceptible to the virus itself, children are being profoundly affected by the fallout, including the economic and social consequences of the lockdown,» the report by the UN children's agency UNICEF said. South Asia -- which includes India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bhutan -- is home to some 600 million children, with around 240 million already living in poverty, the agency said. In a worst-case scenario, the virus could push another 120 million into poverty and food insecurity within six months, it warned. «Without urgent action now, COVID-19 could destroy the hopes and futures of an entire generation,» UNICEF's South Asia regional director Jean Gough said in a statement. Progress in healthcare -- such as immunisation, nutrition and other services -- were being «severely disrupted». In Bangladesh, UNICEF said it found that some of the poorest families could not afford three meals a day, while in Sri Lanka its survey showed that 30 percent of families had cut their food intake. With schools shut, poorer children have struggled to keep up with their education, particularly those in rural households without internet access -- or even electricity. «There are concerns that some disadvantaged students may join the nearly 32 million children who were already out of school before COVID-19 struck,» the report added. Other major concerns include the risks of domestic violence, depression and other mental health issues with youths spending more time at home. © Agence France-Presse

Maldives to reopen tourist resorts from mid-July after virus closures

The Maldives will reopen its tourist resorts from mid-July after a months-long virus-enforced shutdown, the country's president said Tuesday, adding that international travellers would be welcomed to the Indian Ocean holiday hotspot. Tourism is a major earne
Seychelles News Agency

Maldives to reopen tourist resorts from mid-July after virus closures

The Maldives will reopen its tourist resorts from mid-July after a months-long virus-enforced shutdown, the country's president said Tuesday, adding that international travellers would be welcomed to the Indian Ocean holiday hotspot. Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise popular with honeymooners and celebrities. «The country will reopen its borders for international travel, and the government will allow resorts to welcome visitors from July 15,» President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told reporters in the capital Male. Foreign visitors would not be required to undergo virus tests or carry virus-free certificates to enter the archipelago of 1,190 tiny coral islets, the government said. Visitors showing virus symptoms or with high fevers would be tested for the infectious disease at the airport, officials said. The lockdown would be eased further with schools and restaurants, as well as mosques, to be re-opened in the country of Sunni Muslims in the near future, Solih added, without mentioning any dates. Tourists were stranded in the Maldives when international flights were halted from late March to combat the spread of the virus. Most of them left by mid-April on government-organised or privately chartered flights. International flights have not yet resumed, although charters and special flights are permitted to arrive and leave the main airport in Male. The South Asian nation, which has a population of 340,000 people, has so far reported 2,217 virus infections including eight deaths. The Maldives attracted a record 1.7 million foreign tourists last year, a 15 percent increase from 2018, according to the government. Visitor numbers are expected to halve this year. © Agence France-Presse

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