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Saudi chairs G20 crisis talks as virus threatens recession

Leaders of the G20 major economies will hold an online summit Thursday in a bid to fend off a coronavirus-triggered recession, after criticism the group has been slow to address the crisis. US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will

Coronavirus fears spark urban exodus across Africa

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

Coronavirus fears spark urban exodus across Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US tops world in virus cases, overtaking China and Italy

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

US tops world in virus cases, overtaking China and Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UAE Government donates 11 tonnes of medical supplies to the Seychelles government to help towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UAE Government has this afternoon hand over 11 tonnes of medical supplies to the Seychelles government, as humanitarian aid to help contain and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country. The high standard medical supplies are a special do
Seychelles News Agency

The UAE Government donates 11 tonnes of medical supplies to the Seychelles government to help towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UAE Government has this afternoon hand over 11 tonnes of medical supplies to the Seychelles government, as humanitarian aid to help contain and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country. The high standard medical supplies are a special donation from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to assist Seychelles in being better equipped to combat this pandemic and to protect its front liners for more months ahead. This gesture by His Highness is yet another true testimony of the strong bond of friendship that exists between the UAE and Seychelles. UAE holds Seychelles at heart and feels the pain and struggles of the Seychellois people as the pandemic hit the nation. It acknowledges that it is hard as a small island state to overcome this unforeseen and difficult situation, which has become even harder now that most airlines have reduced or suspended their flights to Seychelles, in view of the heavy travel restrictions or bans across the globe. The restrictions and measures put in place by the Seychelles' government is evidence of the commitment, readiness and determination of Seychelles as a small island nation to curb this pandemic, whilst ensuring that the economy recuperates successfully in the aftermath of the COVID-19.   (Emirates News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY   The UAE and its Leaders commend the excellent work of the Seychellois doctors, nurses, police officers, military personnel, media, educators, and other volunteers and staff who are working tirelessly on the frontline or behind the scenes to help the country overcome this pandemic. In these times they deserve all our support, understanding and cooperation. In his message of hope to UAE citizens and residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic, His Highness expressed that “These tough times that we are facing with the rest of the world shall pass. However, we must all have patience. The UAE is faring well, all thanks to the early efforts and measures in place to face this virus.” Seychelles is one of the nations that put in place precautionary measures even before COVID-19 reached its shores. Because of this, it has so far successfully been able to control the spreading of the virus in the community and across the nation. In the wake of a scarcity of resources, the UAE Govermment has stepped in to lend a hand to Seychelles to ensure that it surmounts this pandemic. His Highness re-affirms its commitment to continue to provide humanitarian aid to Seychelles, as well as other Countries in these difficult moments. The medical supplies comprise of coveralls, isolation gowns, gloves, sanitises masks and other medical items.

Employees in Seychelles staying home with children won't lose annual leave days

All employees in Seychelles with children under age 15 who had to proceed on annual leave because of the closure of schools will not have their annual leave deducted. This latest development in Seychelles was announced by the Employment Department on Monday
Seychelles News Agency

Employees in Seychelles staying home with children won't lose annual leave days

All employees in Seychelles with children under age 15 who had to proceed on annual leave because of the closure of schools will not have their annual leave deducted. This latest development in Seychelles was announced by the Employment Department on Monday, following the closure of all daycares centres and educational institutions due to COVID-19. The Ministry for Education had on March 16 announced the closure of all its public schools – 25 primary and 11 secondary schools – on the three main islands. The island nation’s four private schools also took the same measures. The closures were first planned for 14 days. But now that Seychelles has seven confirmed cases of COVID – 19, stricter measures are being imposed. On Friday, President Danny Faure said that all educational institutions including the University of Seychelles, the Guy Morel Institute and daycare centres will close until further notice. A public health emergency was declared as of Monday in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean -- and the employment department is working closely with the Attorney General to see how best to proceed with the situation. Jules Baker, Principal Secretary for Employment explained that the new measures are applicable for workers from both the public and private sectors. All employees in Seychelles with children under age 15 who had to proceed on annual leave because of the closure of schools will not have their annual leave deducted. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY   “We have seen that parents were forced to take annual leave to stay with their children.  This has also had a direct impact on their employment with a large number of absences,” said Baker. Baker explained that employees will benefit from on the COVID- 19 leave, therefore their annual leave will not be forfeited. However, as of April, 1, employees of businesses that closed down for a specific period because of the COVID-19 will also proceed on COVID-19 leave, meaning their annual leave will not be forfeited. Parents of children who are in schools, daycare and childminders will as from April continue on COVID-19 leave until the authority advises otherwise. If other sectors are ordered to shut down by the Public Health Authority then the conditions of these employees will also be protected. Whilst some parents had taken leave to stay with their children others due to the nature of their jobs cannot afford to and have simply opted to work from home. SNA reached out to some parents in this situation. The writer of this article was herself working from home and concluded that this can be challenging. Some organisations had advised staff who can to work from home. “As my childminder had informed me that she will not be taking the kids, I am now working from home the whole section is doing this as our work involve a lot of report writing,” a mother of two who works in finance told SNA. The Ministry for Education announced the closure of all its public schools on the three main islands on March 16. The four private schools also took the same measures. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY   Monica Francoise, currently employed by the University of Seychelles, said that her day working from home starts early, as early as 6 am. “I check emails and deal with pending issues, by 8 am it is time to care for the kids, attend to house chores and at the same time answer and make phone calls,” said Francoise. The mother also added that working from home is stressful as she is also studying part-time. Lyn Absa, a mother and primary school teacher, said her stay at home days are spent teaching her 5 years old son and assisting other parents. “As my class has a WhatsApp page, I am always contacted to send more lessons or give clarifications to students in my class.” These parents told SNA that they are praying that the situation of COVID-19 can be contained, lives are saved and life on the islands returns to normal – something that the world is also praying and hoping for.  

Seychelles and COVID-19: Flight lock-down arrives, as nearly every int'l flight is suspended

Every international flight to Seychelles except for one will be suspended as of this weekend amidst the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. The only international flight remaining to and from the island nation will be Air Seychelles' flight to Johan
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Flight lock-down arrives, as nearly every int'l flight is suspended

Every international flight to Seychelles except for one will be suspended as of this weekend amidst the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. The only international flight remaining to and from the island nation will be Air Seychelles' flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. There are 12 international airlines with connecting flight to Seychelles. Eight have already cancelled their flights: Qatar Airways, Air Mauritius, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Air France, Etihad Airways and Edelweiss Air. Kenya Airways and Air Austral will make their last flights on March 26 and 27, respectively, while Condor and Sri Lankan Airline will repatriate visitors on March 28. The national carrier, Air Seychelles, will be making three flights per week to Johannesburg, South Africa and cancelling all flights to Mumbai, India and Mauritius. In answering a private notice question in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Finance Minister Maurice Loustau-Lalanne said that the measures taken are to prevent people who have contracted the virus from entering the country. «We have legally banned all Seychellois from travelling outside of Seychelles and all foreigners coming from a country with a high infection rate will not be allowed to enter the country,» he said.   In the latest travel advisory from the Department of Health, all returning Seychellois citizens from China, including the SAR, South Korea, Iran and any country in Europe, including the French Departments of Reunion and Mayotte, the U.S and Australia will be placed under obligatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Loustau-Lalanne said that since Seychelles closed its border to European visitors causing a drastic drop in arrivals, «we expect that this will continue as other countries close their borders and airline companies reduces their services.» Seven patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. The patients are three Seychellois and four foreigners and are all in the isolation treatment centre at the Family Hospital at Perseverance, a man-made island. 

Rescheduled Tokyo Olympics need sacrifices from all stakeholders: Bach

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Wednesday that the postponed Tokyo Games would require «sacrifices and compromises» from all sides to make them work. «These postponed Olympic Games will need sacrifices, will need
Seychelles News Agency

Rescheduled Tokyo Olympics need sacrifices from all stakeholders: Bach

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Wednesday that the postponed Tokyo Games would require «sacrifices and compromises» from all sides to make them work. «These postponed Olympic Games will need sacrifices, will need compromises by all of the stakeholders,» Bach told reporters in a conference call the day after the IOC decided to delay the 2020 Games because of the coronavirus pandemic. The IOC's role, Bach said, was «to make the Olympic dreams of athletes come true». He admitted that cancelling the Tokyo Games was «discussed and considered», but said: «It was very clear from the beginning that cancellation was not something the IOC would in any way favour.» It is the first Olympic Games in peacetime to be postponed. Bach said the rescheduling of the Games in 2021 remained a «very challenging question». A taskforce, named 'Here We Go', had been created to examine the issue, Bach added, saying the first port of call would be with the 33 international federations, likely starting with a conference call on Thursday. «The first step, we have to see with them, to see what the options are. We also have to take into account the sports calendar around the Olympic Games,» the German said. The rescheduling, he added, «is not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table, before and including the summer of 2021». Both World Athletics and the International Swimming Federation say they are prepared to move their 2021 world championships to accommodate the rescheduled Games. The Athletics world championships are due to be held in Eugene, Oregon on August 6-15 next year, with the swimming worlds at Fukuoka in Japan between July 16 and August 1. - Beating heart of Athletes' Village - One of the many logistical headaches caused by the historic postponement of the Tokyo Olympics has been the uncertainty around the Athletes' Village overlooking Tokyo Bay. Touted by developers as a «flagship neighbourhood for urban lifestyles», the buildings housing the 11,000 competitors were to be hastily repurposed into more than 4,000 condos with stunning city views, some carrying a price tag of 170 million yen ($1.5 million). When asked about how a postponement might affect the Village and its conversion, Bach said: «I cannot tell you what the situation is. »It's one of the many thousand of questions the taskforce has to address. «It's the Olympic Village (where) the heart of the Games is usually beating.» Bach, who was part of West Germany's gold medal-winning foil fencing team at the 1976 Olympics, added: «Of course, I'd be very, very delighted if we could have the Olympic Village in the traditional form. »Everybody who has once lived in an Olympic Village knows that this is the real Olympic experience, that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. «Living under one roof with the whole world, sharing your meals together, celebrating together, discussing together, and forming this unique Olympic unity.» Bach concluded by saying: «We are at an unprecedented situation and have an unprecedented challenge. »We have to find the best possible situation under the circumstances that we are living in." © Agence France-Presse

One third of humanity under virus lockdown

India's billion-plus population went into a three-week lockdown on Wednesday, with a third of the world now under orders to stay indoors, as the coronavirus pandemic forced Japan to postpone the Olympics until next year. Financial markets soared after a cata
Seychelles News Agency

One third of humanity under virus lockdown

India's billion-plus population went into a three-week lockdown on Wednesday, with a third of the world now under orders to stay indoors, as the coronavirus pandemic forced Japan to postpone the Olympics until next year. Financial markets soared after a catastrophic month as the US Congress looked set to pass a mammoth stimulus bill, joining the world's central banks in combatting the crisis with major cash injections. Donald Trump voiced hope that the United States would be «raring to go» by Easter, which falls on April 12 for most Christians, but despite the president's optimism, more governments are taking unprecedented action to stop potential virus-carriers going out and about. India ordered its 1.3 billion people -- the world's second-biggest population -- to stay at home for three weeks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's «total lockdown» call doubled the number of people around the globe under some form of movement restriction to more than 2.6 billion people. «To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family... every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown,» Modi said in a televised address. But China, where the new virus emerged last year, loosened tough restrictions on the 50 million people in its epicentre province of Hubei on Wednesday after a months-long lockdown as the country reported no new domestic cases. The city of Wuhan -- the initial ground zero of the outbreak after it was initially detected at a market that sold wild animals for human consumption -- will allow residents to leave from April 8. - Olympic hold - The pandemic has cut a swathe through the world's sporting and cultural events, and on Tuesday claimed the biggest of them all: the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to sound an optimistic note, vowing that the rescheduled Games in 2021 would be «a testament to mankind's defeat of the new virus». It marks the first time that the world's biggest sporting event, set to open on July 24, has been delayed in peacetime. Across the planet, the grim COVID-19 toll mounted further, with more than 18,200 deaths and 405,000 declared infections, half of them in Europe according to an AFP tally. The medical situation is still critical in Europe, where hardest-hit Italy had mixed news. The Mediterranean country's death toll shot back up to 743 after two days of slight decline from a world-record peak of 793 on Saturday. But officially registered new infections rose just eight percent for the second straight day. Elsewhere Ireland ordered non-essential businesses shut, Britain planned a 4,000-bed emergency hospital in London and Spain called for practical support from the NATO military alliance. Countries in Africa, where health systems are often fragile, are also ramping up their response to the virus as cases and deaths rise. And nearly 130 million Americans, or 40 percent of the population, are under or will soon come under some lockdown order, including in the largest state of California. Many governments are listening to health experts who warn the only way to slow the epidemic -- and save the lives of the elderly and vulnerable -- is by imposing «social isolation» measures on a population. But Trump is not convinced the move is worth the enormous economic cost. «A lot of people agree with me. Our country -- it's not built to shut down,» he told Fox News. «You can destroy a country this way by closing it down.» - Markets rebound - Global markets finally started to recoup some of the losses seen in the February bloodbath. The Dow Jones Industrial Index on Tuesday surged 11.3 percent, its biggest rally in percentage terms since 1933 during the Great Depression. The massive rise comes as US legislators reported headway on a $2 trillion rescue package that would be the largest emergency spending effort ever and inject cash both into the hands of consumers and businesses. «Of the few outstanding issues, I don't see any that can't be overcome in the next few hours,» top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said after meeting Trump's negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The US Federal Reserve earlier unveiled an unprecedented bond-buying programme, in a move not seen since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago. And finance ministers and central bank chiefs of the Group of Seven major industrial democracies have vowed to «do whatever is necessary to restore confidence and economic growth and to protect jobs, businesses, and the resilience of the financial system». Asian equities rallied again on Wednesday, with Tokyo up 5.7 percent at the break, while Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore and Wellington all gained more than two percent. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: 2,300 bookings worth $ 3.8 million cancelled in island nation due to virus, survey finds

A three-day survey carried out in Seychelles shows that at least 2,367 bookings worth $3.8 million were cancelled between February 25 and March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the finance minister. Overall, the Finance Ministry is projecting a 64 perce
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: 2,300 bookings worth $ 3.8 million cancelled in island nation due to virus, survey finds

A three-day survey carried out in Seychelles shows that at least 2,367 bookings worth $3.8 million were cancelled between February 25 and March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the finance minister. Overall, the Finance Ministry is projecting a 64 percent drop in tourist arrivals in 2020. The 72 establishments that took part in the survey by the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) also recorded 215 booking postponements. The establishments represent 866 rooms in total and the occupancy rate for the rooms are at 19 percent. «Since Seychelles closed its borders to European visitors, we have seen that visitor arrival has dropped drastically, and we expect it to continue as other countries close their borders and airlines either reduce or suspend their services,» said Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, the Minister of Finance, Trade and Economic Planning. Loustau-Lalanne was answering a private notice question of the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Wavel Ramkalawan, on Tuesday.   For the second quarter of 2020, STB is working on a plan to encourage the local tourism industry to give vacation opportunities to Seychellois. «It is important to note that at this point, this plan will not be implemented immediately as there are public health restrictions in place on the movement of the public, and depending on how things go this might become another source of income for the tourism industry,» he said. On the general impact that the pandemic will have on the economy, Loustau-Lalanne said that in collaboration with their partners Seychelles has already started working on a revised economic plan. «The worst-case scenario shows that the economic growth as per Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2020 will reach negative 10.8 percent, as compared to a growth of 3.5 percent as projected for the budget. In this new budget we expect a deficit instead of a surplus in the premium balance of 2.5 percent that was projected for the 2020 budget in October last year,» said the minister. He added that the immediate impact is of course on the tourism industry, which is Seychelles' first economic pillar. «Compared to a growth of 5 percent projected, we are predicting that growth within this industry will go down by 50 percent. We are projecting a 64 percent decrease in the number of visitors,» he continued. Loustau-Lalanne outlined that the main areas affected within this industry are the accommodation and food service sectors, having a rippling effect on the administrative and support services, wholesale, retail and transport sectors. «However, we expect other sectors to have activities that will support economic growth. This is mostly in the information and telecommunication sector, health, fisheries and agriculture. Growth in other sectors, especially in finance and insurance, remain uncertain,» said Loustau-Lalanne. Meanwhile, Ramkalawan once more voiced out that a two-week lockdown is necessary for the country to help fight the spread of COVID-19. He said a lockdown would provide the department of health and other authorities the opportunity to properly assess the situation and ensure that measures such as social distancing become more effective. The Leader of Government Business, Charles De Commarmond, congratulated the team working on the ground to fight the virus in Seychelles, pointing out that «there has been a stabilisation in the number of cases which shows that we are doing well.» At the moment there are seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Six are stable with one in critical but stable condition. A total of 129 people are in quarantine in different locations – Perseverance, Maison de Football, Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay hotel and at home. Loustau-Lalanne said that eventually all those under quarantine will be transferred to Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay, «as it will be easier to manage one quarantine location.»

Central Bank of Seychelles cuts interest rates, reserves foreign capital for basic commodities amid COVID-19

The Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) has announced that its foreign exchange reserve will only be used to procure three items – fuel, basic food commodities and medicines – as major shocks are expected in the economic sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seychelles News Agency

Central Bank of Seychelles cuts interest rates, reserves foreign capital for basic commodities amid COVID-19

The Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) has announced that its foreign exchange reserve will only be used to procure three items – fuel, basic food commodities and medicines – as major shocks are expected in the economic sector amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bank also cut the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to four per cent from five per cent in response to the macroeconomic risks presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. The reduction is aimed at alleviating future stress on borrowers. A credit facility of approximately $36 million will be set up to assist commercial banks with emergency relief measures to assist businesses and individuals struggling with the financial impact of the pandemic. These measures were announced at a press conference on Monday at the institution and are in line with amendments to the Central Bank Act 2004 and the Financial Institutions Act 2004 to address the adverse effects of the COVID 19 pandemic on the economy and financial system. The governor of the CBS - Caroline Abel - explained that 2019 was a very good year in terms of foreign exchange earnings due to very good performance by the tourism sector in Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. But she added that in the coming months' such resources will become more limited. Abel advised consumers that they need to reassess what they need and buy. (Thomas Meriton) Photo license: CC-BY   Abel also warned that the public in general, businesses and the government must spend wisely as there will be shocks in commerce and foreign exchange as what the country is going through is not business as usual. “What we are seeing now is people buying everything. Stocks are being depleted quickly making a situation that commodities which were meant to last for four to six months will only last for one month,” explained Abel. The governor advised that consumers need to reassess what they need and buy, “as pressures will reflect in commercial banks, in prices and foreign exchange. So our most important objective is stability in price. We are following this situation closely daily to see how the exchange rate is evolving with demand.” Abel said that what the country is going through is not normal, consumption must be reduced to keep it at a sustainable level. Businesses with foreign exchange earnings are also being urged to keep these in the banking system of the island nation as the CBS said it does not want to impose control on foreign exchange as it was the case in 2008. The Central Bank of Seychelles also said that commercial banks, the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) and the Seychelles Credit Union have agreed to consider a moratorium of six months on the repayment of principal and interest on loans to assist businesses in impacted sectors. The six-month moratorium may also apply to individuals that have been adversely impacted. The governor of CBS said 2019 was a very good year in terms of foreign exchange earnings due to very good performance by the tourism sector in Seychelles. Photo license: CC-BY  (Patrick Joubert) Banking institutions will also consider their customers’ need for restructuring of their loan facilities, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. “The way the industry works here is when the tourism industry is being affected, this has a direct impact on other industries. The relief policy measures will provide businesses breathing space during critical times so that when things improve, the businesses would have survived and help to restart the economy,” explained Naadir Hassan, head of finance surveillance at the Central Bank. Hassan added: “We support the private sector to remain afloat so that they can then help to rebuild the economy. The focus is on supporting their cash flow so that they can continue to meet critical expenses.” These include salaries, loans, utilities and rent.

UN Security Council stalemate over virus

The UN Security Council, which has not met for 12 days due to the coronavirus outbreak, is deeply divided over a proposed declaration on the crisis and holding «virtual» meetings to vote on resolutions, diplomatic sources said Monday. The impass
Seychelles News Agency

UN Security Council stalemate over virus

The UN Security Council, which has not met for 12 days due to the coronavirus outbreak, is deeply divided over a proposed declaration on the crisis and holding «virtual» meetings to vote on resolutions, diplomatic sources said Monday. The impasse comes as world leaders struggle to respond to the pandemic, with rivals US and China engaged in a war of words as medical experts plead for unified action. «South Africa (a non-permanent council member) rejected (the proposed declaration) first. Russia and China engaged earlier, but later on also blocked it,» a source told AFP. The draft proposal, drawn up late last week by Estonia, highlights «growing concern about the unprecedented extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in the world, which may constitute a threat to international peace and security.» It also calls for «full transparency» over the outbreak -- wording seen by some to allude to US criticism of government secrecy in China, where the virus first emerged. «The members of the Security Council urge the member states to put more emphasis on helping the ones most exposed and vulnerable to the virus and the populations in dire humanitarian situations,» the draft, seen by AFP, says. It adds that «no country can succeed alone.» A UN Security Council declaration requires the support of all 15 members to be adopted and published. - Uncertain schedule - World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Monday that the pandemic was clearly «accelerating» as the number of deaths surged close to 16,000, with over 350,000 declared infections. The Security Council, chaired in March by China, has not met since March 12, with most UN staff and diplomats from the national missions working from home to avoid infection, though the New York headquarters remains open. On Thursday it must renew the mandate of UN experts responsible for sanctions imposed on North Korea for one year and extend the peace mission in Somalia for one year. According to diplomats, the council must also extend the peacekeepers' mission in Darfur by two months, without modifying the numbers of troops. Originally, the Security Council was supposed to decide on a gradual withdrawal to create at the end of October a political mission in Sudan and close its peacekeeping operation in Darfur. Council meetings on Syria and Libya this week have been canceled, but it remains unclear whether the council will meet as scheduled on Thursday. For 10 days, Russia has repeatedly opposed «virtual» meetings by video to allow voting sessions. Critics point out that a «physical» session would force around 50 people to come to the UN, with one diplomat describing the Russian stance as «idiotic.» «We are for a physical presence (and) doubt that (voting) could be achieved otherwise,» Russian deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitri Polyanskiy told AFP. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: Opposition leader in national assembly advocates for a two-week lock-down

The leader of Seychelles' opposition in the National Assembly says that the island nation should carry out a two-week lock-down to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Wavel Ramkalawan, leader of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) in the Assembly told a pres
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Opposition leader in national assembly advocates for a two-week lock-down

The leader of Seychelles' opposition in the National Assembly says that the island nation should carry out a two-week lock-down to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Wavel Ramkalawan, leader of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) in the Assembly told a press conference on Saturday that a lock-down would provide the department of health and other authorities the opportunity to properly assess the situation and ensure that measures such as social distancing become more effective. The proposed lock-down was endorsed by the leader of the Lalyans Seselwa party, Patrick Pillay, who said that «a 14-day lock-down would at least allow all the concerned authorities to come together for an urgent dialogue on how best to implement emergency measures.» The Department of Health in its latest advisory on Sunday said that all public gatherings which attract crowds or compromise social distancing are strictly forbidden and that no permission will be granted by the police for any public gathering. Another measure proposed by Ramkalawan is the necessity for an overall coordinating authority to develop the strategies and coordinate the response to this emergency. «The most direct way to do this is to set up a COVID-19 fund under the Public Finances Act which will be managed by a board. The board will manage all financial demands from all sectors,» said Ramkalawan. In his address on Friday, President Danny Faure said that SCR 1.2 billion ($88 million) will be unlocked to support businesses and the government will not entertain any redundancies. «While we support the government to step in to support economic operators to remain viable and that no employee should be left stranded, the proposal for any bail-out to should be well calculated,» said Ramkalawan. He added that «businesses with large cash holdings do not need the same level of assistance as individuals, self-employed persons, and small and medium-sized enterprise. Salary should be prioritized to Seychellois.» Speaking at the LDS press conference, Ahmed Afif, elected member of the district of Anse Etoile and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, said that the impact will be on tourism mostly. He said that from tourism only, Seychelles is earning approximately $600 million and the impact will be significant on the economy.  Tourism is the top contributor to the group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. Seychelles has seven positive cases of COVID-19 receiving treatment at the Isolation Centre at the Family Hospital on the manmade island of Perseverance. One patient is in critical condition while the others are stable. 

Canada pulls out of Olympics, Japan says delay may be 'inevitable'

Canada pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus fears as Japan's prime minister Monday admitted a delay may be «inevitable» and the International Olympic Committee said a decision should come within weeks. Australia also told its athlete
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Canada pulls out of Olympics, Japan says delay may be 'inevitable'

Canada pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics over coronavirus fears as Japan's prime minister Monday admitted a delay may be «inevitable» and the International Olympic Committee said a decision should come within weeks. Australia also told its athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Olympics in 2021 as expectations grew that the Games -- scheduled to start on July 24 -- would be postponed as the virus crisis convulses the globe. Japanese and Olympic officials had stuck resolutely to the line that the Summer Games will go ahead on time, but criticism from athletes and sports bodies has swelled to a crescendo in recent days. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that Japan was still committed to a «complete» Games, but added: «If that becomes difficult, in light of considering athletes first, it may become inevitable that we make a decision to postpone.» It was the second major concession in a matter of hours after the IOC said «the scenario of postponement» was one of the options under consideration, with a final decision due within four weeks. «Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games,» IOC president Thomas Bach wrote in an open letter to athletes after emergency talks. «Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody,» Bach added. «Therefore it is not on our agenda.» - 'Not solely about athlete health' - Athletes and sports bodies have become increasingly vocal after restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 trashed competition schedules and often made training impossible -- and risky. Canada highlighted the dangers to the broader community as they became the first team to withdraw from the Olympics and Paralympics, urging a year's postponement. «This is not solely about athlete health -- it is about public health,» the Canadian Olympic Committee said. «With COVID-19 and the associated risks, it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these Games.» Canada's pull-out came despite the IOC promising to hold «detailed discussions» on the «worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement», with a decision expected «within the next four weeks». Even this timetable was criticised, with Britain's world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith calling it «irresponsible». «So wait... does this mean that athletes face up to another FOUR weeks of finding ways to fit in training -- whilst potentially putting ourselves, coaches, support staff and loved ones at risk just to find out they were going to be postponed anyway,» she tweeted. «So irresponsible,» added Asher-Smith. «I was really hoping to hear an announcement that they'd postponed it to 2021 this week.» - Crowds flock for flame - The IOC is responsible for making any final decision on the Games, and has come under increasing pressure as the coronavirus emergency grows, with more than 14,400 deaths worldwide, according to an AFP tally. It warned that the logistics of postponing the Games were extremely complicated, with venues potentially unavailable, millions of hotel nights already booked and a packed international sports calendar. However, Australian Olympic officials said «it's clear» that the Tokyo Games can't go ahead as scheduled and told its athletes to prepare for a year's postponement. «Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them,» said Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman. US track legend Carl Lewis had earlier became just the latest prominent call for a delay, following similar demands from the American, French and Spanish athletics associations. The virus has already had an impact on the Games, with qualifiers cancelled and events to celebrate the Olympic torch arrival and relay scaled back. Despite the measures, more than 50,000 people flocked to a cauldron displaying the flame in northeastern Japan, raising fears about whether the relay can be held safely. Some waited in a 500-metre (yard) queue for several hours, Japanese media said. «I queued for three hours but watching the Olympic flame was greatly encouraging,» a 70-year-old woman told public broadcaster NHK. © Agence France-Presse

Economic slowdown to bring lower fuel prices to Seychelles

Fuel prices in Seychelles are expected to drop as the cost of crude oil keeps falling on the global market, said a high official recently. Amidst the negative impact on the global economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for oil has dropped, resulting in
Seychelles News Agency

Economic slowdown to bring lower fuel prices to Seychelles

Fuel prices in Seychelles are expected to drop as the cost of crude oil keeps falling on the global market, said a high official recently. Amidst the negative impact on the global economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for oil has dropped, resulting in a decrease in prices. «The price is expected to be cheaper as suppliers from which we are buying fuel have indicated that they are seeing a reduction in the prices around the world. Crude oil has gone down from over $60 a barrel to $23,» said Conrad Benoiton, the chief executive of the Seychelles Petroleum Company (SEYPEC). In an interview with the Seychelles Broadcasting Cooperation (SBC), the commercial general manager at SEYPEC, Sarah Romain, said that the next two consignments of fuel the company is going to buy are based on this week's crude lower oil price. At the moment, gasoline is selling at SCR17.92 ($1.29) a litre, 47 cents cheaper than it was before. «This is a benefit that we are passing on to the consumers and we need to keep in mind that when there is this reduction, we need to think about the structure of our fuel price on the pump,» she said. Romain added that «today the price is SCR17.92 out of which there is the price paid to the supplier at a cost of SCR6.59 and then the government applies SCR8.58 tax, then there is the margin that SEYPEC puts in place as its profit.» With regards to the next consignment expected in the country, Benoiton said that the company does not yet know at what price fuel will be selling but «there is an expectation that it will be lower than what is it currently is selling at today.» He added that foreign exchange rates also play a role in the price of fuel on the pump and that a dollar has gone from costing SCR14.22 to SCR14.24. SEYPEC's CEO took the opportunity to ask the public to stop panic buying LPG gas as this is creating a pressure on the bottling plant. «We have an LPG tanker that is coming tomorrow morning and will be filling our tanks, giving us a stock that will last for six months. There is no need to buy gas in bulk,» explained Benoiton.

Madagascar orders lockdown of two main cities in virus fight

President Andry Rajoelina on Sunday ordered lockdowns in Madagascar's two main cities to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus across the poor Indian Ocean nation. «From tomorrow, Monday ... everyone stay at home,» he said in a televised b
Seychelles News Agency

Madagascar orders lockdown of two main cities in virus fight

President Andry Rajoelina on Sunday ordered lockdowns in Madagascar's two main cities to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus across the poor Indian Ocean nation. «From tomorrow, Monday ... everyone stay at home,» he said in a televised broadcast, adding that only the capital Antananarivo and Toamasina in the east were concerned. Any transport, except for goods, was forbidden, he added. Only stores selling vital products such as food could open for business and only one person per family could go shopping. Banks will remain open but a curfew during night hours will be introduced, he added. «Those who don't respect these measures will suffer severe penalties,» he warned. Madagascar, one of the world's poorest countries, has registered 12 cases of COVID-19 so far. No deaths have been reported so far. Across the world, an estimated 900 million people are already confined to their homes, according to an AFP tally, as part of efforts to contain the deadly pandemic. At least 14,396 deaths have been recorded since the virus first emerged in December, according to an AFP tally compiled at 1900 GMT on Sunday based on official sources. More than 14,000 people have died, with Italy reporting the highest toll. © Agence France-Presse

New project in Seychelles to highlight importance of coral reefs to children

A new project has kicked off in Seychelles to highlight the rich heritage of coral reefs and children as their custodian. Pareo is being implemented in Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion – a French department. Implemented by the “Research Institute for De
Seychelles News Agency

New project in Seychelles to highlight importance of coral reefs to children

A new project has kicked off in Seychelles to highlight the rich heritage of coral reefs and children as their custodian. Pareo is being implemented in Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion – a French department. Implemented by the “Research Institute for Development (IRD),” and funded by Europe, France and the Regional Council of Reunion, Pareo seeks to raise awareness about the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean region. A three-day training that began Thursday will introduce participants to specific developed educational tools and games, namely the MARECO kit, which will be used for teaching in primary schools. The MARECO kit will be used for teaching in primary schools. Lola Massé, the Pareo Project Manager – explained the main objectives of this initiative: "Ensure a better knowledge of Indian Ocean coral reefs by transferring the scientific knowledge in a fun and stimulating way, connect and reconnect to coral reefs, to better understand them and go for active conservation; Promote networking among stakeholders (children, community, decision-maker) to raise a common feeling, and ensure efficient management. According to Massé, environmental education is one of the essential pillars to amaze, raise awareness and inculcate new behaviours in children, the citizens of tomorrow. “The Indian Ocean islands have in common an exceptional reef heritage which unfortunately deteriorates under human pressure resulting in significant loss of biodiversity. However, these ecosystems are the source of many benefits for local fishing, coastal protection, and development of recreation and tourism,” said Massé. The marine biologist added: “In the interest of all, coral reefs require enhanced protection, combined with awareness to ensure their protection, as well as transmitting scientific knowledge to the general public.” In Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – Pareo is being implemented in partnership with the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), the Ministry of Education and Human Resources and the Wildlife Club of Seychelles. The training also included a field trip to Ste Anne Marine Park where the trainees will see first-hand the reef ecosystem, its biodiversity and its management.   Participants of the training are teachers as well as representatives of not for profit organizations working in marine conservation. “This training will broaden my knowledge about coral reef in order for me to pass on to the school children especially when I teach them about the Corel reefs of Aldabra,” said Maria Brioche – outreach and education officer from the Seychelles Island Foundation, which manages the Aldabra atoll, a world heritage site. Brioche added: “I will also have different games and educational tools that will help children understand why we need to protect the corals' reefs as I can know identify.” Benjamin Martin – responsible for Regional Corporation between Seychelles and Reunion, which funded the training, said the core of their work and funding goes to bringing the islands closer together. “We can do that because we are very close culturally, economically and we share the same space, we share the same ocean.” The training also included a field trip to Ste Anne Marine Park where the trainees will see first-hand the reef ecosystem, its biodiversity and its management.  

Virus deaths surge past 13,000 as one billion confined to homes

Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes on Sunday, as the coronavirus death toll crossed 13,000 and factories were shut in worst-hit Italy after another single-day fatalities record. The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns i
Seychelles News Agency

Virus deaths surge past 13,000 as one billion confined to homes

Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes on Sunday, as the coronavirus death toll crossed 13,000 and factories were shut in worst-hit Italy after another single-day fatalities record. The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries across the globe, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash hundreds of billions in emergency measures to avoid a widespread virus-fuelled economic meltdown. More than 300,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide, with the situation increasingly grim in Italy where the death toll spiked to more than 4,800 -- over a third of the global total. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a closure of all non-essential factories in a late-night TV address on Saturday. The Mediterranean nation of 60 million is now the epicentre of the disease, which first emerged in central China late last year before marching out to the rest of the world. Italy has now reported more deaths than mainland China and third-placed Iran combined, and it has a death rate of 8.6 percent among confirmed COVID-19 infections -- significantly higher than in most other countries. Across the Atlantic, more than a third of Americans were adjusting to life in various phases of lockdown, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- the three biggest US cities. Other parts of the United States are expected to ramp up restrictions as well. «This is a time of shared national sacrifice, but also a time to treasure our loved ones,» US President Donald Trump said. «We're going to have a great victory.» As world leaders have vowed to fight the pandemic, the number of deaths and infections has continued to rise, especially in Europe -- the main global hotspot. Spain reported a 32 percent spike in new deaths on Saturday, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned in a TV address that the nation needs to prepare for «very hard days ahead». Fatalities in France jumped to 562 as police officials said helicopters and drones were being deployed to boost the government's attempts to keep people in their homes. The unprecedented measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 have shredded the international sports calendar, and pressure is mounting on Olympic organisers to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games. - 'Months, not weeks' - The pandemic has bludgeoned global stock markets, and the United States -- the world's biggest economy -- is preparing a huge emergency stimulus package that could top $1 trillion. Millions have been ordered to stay home in the United States. New Jersey on Saturday followed several states in telling residents to stay indoors. Governor Phil Murphy ordered all non-essential businesses to close their physical stores from 9:00 PM (0100 GMT Sunday). And in neighbouring New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the disruption is likely to last for months, not weeks. «I don't think it's possible in a city of this size for people to maintain it for much longer than three weeks before they start losing it,» Yona Corn, a 35-year-old singer, told AFP. «I think there's going to be a big mental health crisis. I worry about what's going to happen to people.» Congress members are hoping to agree on a $1 trillion emergency aid package as fears grow about the economic fallout from the crisis. The US Food and Drug Administration also approved the first coronavirus test that can be conducted entirely at the point of care for a patient -- and deliver results in 45 minutes. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife tested negative for the coronavirus, his press secretary tweeted Saturday. The couple had taken the test after one of Pence's staffers contracted the illness. - India 'curfew' - The drastic confinement measures follow the example of China, where the lockdown of Hubei province appears to have paid off. Wuhan, Hubei's capital, is where the virus was first detected. China reported its first local infection in four days on Sunday. While the number of cases in the mainland has slumped dramatically since the crisis began, there are fears of «imported» cases from other hotspots like Europe. France, Italy, Spain and other European countries have ordered people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, while Australia on Sunday told citizens to cancel domestic travel plans. Britain has told pubs, restaurants and theatres to close and warned citizens to stop panic-buying. And India went into lockdown on Sunday with a one-day nationwide «self-imposed curfew». While the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are the hardest hit by the virus, the WHO has warned that young people are also vulnerable. Accurate COVID-19 figures are difficult to reach because many of the victims suffered from other illnesses, and infection rates are uncertain because of a lack of testing in many countries. The coronavirus has infected more than 1,000 across Africa too, where healthcare systems are limited and social distancing measures -- like the ones being adopted in North America and Europe -- are difficult in crowded cities. The Middle East also remains on high alert, where Iran -- which suffered a major outbreak -- reporting 123 new deaths on Saturday. But the Islamic Republic has refused to join the rest of the world in imposing heavy restrictions. © Agence France-Presse

Italy virus toll tops 4,000, New York joins California in lockdown

The grim toll of coronavirus deaths in Italy, the world's worst-hit nation, surged past 4,000 on Friday as New York and other US states joined California in ordering a lockdown to try to bring the pandemic under control. While new infections were being detec
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Italy virus toll tops 4,000, New York joins California in lockdown

The grim toll of coronavirus deaths in Italy, the world's worst-hit nation, surged past 4,000 on Friday as New York and other US states joined California in ordering a lockdown to try to bring the pandemic under control. While new infections were being detected around the globe, the World Health Organization said the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began in December, offered a glimmer of «hope for the rest of the world», with no fresh cases reported. As Italy reeled from its worst single-day toll with more than 600 deaths, worldwide fatalities swept past 11,000, with the number of infected people topping 258,000, according to an AFP tally. Governments and central banks continued meanwhile to throw huge sums of money into the economic battle, hoping that a deep global recession could somehow be dodged. US President Donald Trump applauded decisions by the governors of New York and California to order residents to stay home but said he did not think a nationwide lockdown was needed. «Those are really two hotbeds,» Trump said. «I don't think we'll ever find (a US-wide lockdown) necessary,» he said, adding that the United States was «winning» the war against the virus. Shortly after Trump spoke, the governor of Illinois ordered residents of the midwestern state to stay at home and the governor of Connecticut did the same. The stay-at-home orders put the three most populous cities in the United States -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- under lockdown. Britain, falling in line with its neighbors in the European Union, also announced tougher restrictions, telling pubs, restaurants and theaters to close and promising to help cover the wages of affected workers. Italy reported its worst single day, adding another 627 fatalities and taking its reported total to 4,032 despite government efforts to stem the spread. The nation of 60 million now accounts for 36 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths and its death rate of 8.6 percent among those registered with infections is significantly higher than in most other countries. France on Friday reported 78 more deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll there to 450. - 'Hope' - In encouraging news, Wuhan reported no new cases in 24 hours. «Wuhan provides hope for the rest of the world that even the most severe situation can be turned around», said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Hours earlier, California, which has over 1,000 cases and 19 deaths, told its 40 million residents to stay at home. New York state, which has reported over 7,000 cases and 39 deaths, followed suit on Friday morning, ordering its nearly 20 million residents to do the same from Sunday evening. «We're all in quarantine now,» New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Trump also announced Friday that the US and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border beginning on Saturday. He said the move, similar to one already announced with Canada, was necessary to prevent the «spread the infection to our border agents, migrants, and to the public at large.» Meanwhile a staffer in the office of US Vice President Mike Pence, the pointman for Washington's response to the coronavirus outbreak, tested positive for the illness Across Europe, governments continued to rigorously enforce lockdown measures as the continent's most celebrated boulevards and squares remained silent and empty even as warmer spring weather arrived. France, Italy, Spain and other European countries have told people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, and Bavaria became the first region in Germany to order a lockdown. - 'Idiots' - France said more than 4,000 people were fined on the first day of its confinement and ministers described those breaking the rules as «idiots». The strict measures follow the template set by China, as a lockdown imposed in Hubei province where the virus first emerged appeared to have paid off. China's death count was steady at 3,248, according to an AFP tally. Europe now accounts for more than half of the world's fatalities linked to COVID-19. Accurate figures are difficult to come by, however, as many of those who die suffer from other illnesses and infection rates are uncertain because of a lack of testing in many countries. The shadow of the virus is lengthening across Africa and the Middle East too. Gabon confirmed sub-Saharan Africa's second known death, with reported cases across Africa standing at more than 900 and rising fast. In Iran, both supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani promised the country would overcome the outbreak -- but still refused to join the rest of the world in imposing heavy restrictions. In Latin America, Cuba and Bolivia both announced they were closing their borders. The pandemic has sparked fears of a global recession, battering the world's stock markets and prompting governments to push huge spending plans to limit the damage. The central banks of the United States, Japan, Britain, Canada and Switzerland joined forces on Friday in a new bid to keep money pumping through the world economy. In the United States, senators began negotiations over a $1 trillion emergency stimulus package to help Americans ravaged by the virus outbreak. The US package -- coupled with a European Central Bank plan to buy 750 billion euros in bonds -- saw stock markets across Asia and Europe rebound in Friday trading, but Wall Street finished sharply lower. The global sporting calendar, shredded by the pandemic, still has one major event coming up that has not yet been called off -- the Olympic Games, set to take place in Japan in the summer. © Agence France-Presse

Air Seychelles' newest plane arrives amid air travel slowdown, but with eyes on future

Air Seychelles' new A320neo aircraft landed at the Seychelles international airport of Pointe Larue on Thursday. According to the airline, the new Airbus plane has been named 'Pti Merl Dezil' -- the Creole name for the Seychelles warbler, a threatened bird f
Seychelles News Agency

Air Seychelles' newest plane arrives amid air travel slowdown, but with eyes on future

Air Seychelles' new A320neo aircraft landed at the Seychelles international airport of Pointe Larue on Thursday. According to the airline, the new Airbus plane has been named 'Pti Merl Dezil' -- the Creole name for the Seychelles warbler, a threatened bird found only in the island nation in the western Indian Ocean. The aircraft was commanded by two of the airline's pilots from Hamburg, Germany to Seychelles via Abu Dhabi, where a brief stop for refuelling was made. The arrival process in the Seychelles was carried out according to the strict guidelines put in place as preventive measures for the COVID-19 pandemic by the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) and the health authorities, the airline said. In adherence to the guidelines of the local Department of Health, the team has proceeded on 14 days quarantine upon arrival. Jude Gedeon, the Public Health Commissioner, said that «all necessary precautions were taken by the staff to prevent infection while in Hamburg. The location where the staff will be accommodated in Seychelles has been verified by the Department of Health and is suitable for quarantined.» Remco Althuis, the chief executive of Air Seychelles, said, «COVID-19 was non-existent when S7-PTI was ordered 18 months ago and we do understand that right now it is a critical time for all airlines globally, including for Air Seychelles.» He said that having a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft is very important in order to safeguard the economic operations once the business resumes back to normal. «It is for that reason that it was important, that we took delivery of the new A320neo aircraft and Pti Merl Dezil will be part of Air Seychelles' fleet of two A320neos,» he added. Members on the flight included six staff from the Air Seychelles technical operations department, as well as two staff members from the SCAA. The team were in Hamburg to conduct the final inspection and acceptance of the aircraft. Althuis said that while the demand for air travel and tourism to the Seychelles has significantly decreased due to COVID-19 «the aircraft will be put to work to maintain strategic air links to the Seychelles, ensuring that critical supplies can still come in and it will also be available for repatriation flights should those be required.»  Meanwhile, the airline is revising its flight schedule, to Prtaslin effective Saturday, 21 March, due to reduced demand following the outbreak of the COVID-19. Air Seychelles will now operate six round trips between Mahe and Praslin on weekdays including seven round trips over the weekend starting from 6.25 am until 7.10 pm. Air Seychelles said that «following guidance from the local Department of Health to prevent the spread of COVID-19, travellers are also advised to avoid going to the airline's sales offices for bookings of tickets.» Travellers are requested to book their trip via airseychelles.com or at the reservations and ticketing desks located at the Domestic Terminal in both Mahe and Praslin and that only card payment is accepted at these facilities.

Seychelles and COVID-19: New major measures: travel banned for 30 days, schools and daycares closed, salaries assured

Seychelles President Danny Faure on Friday announced major efforts by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19 and re-orient government priorities and spending toward mitigating the health and economic effects of a disease careening across the globe. Am
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: New major measures: travel banned for 30 days, schools and daycares closed, salaries assured

Seychelles President Danny Faure on Friday announced major efforts by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19 and re-orient government priorities and spending toward mitigating the health and economic effects of a disease careening across the globe. Among the measures: - The closure of all schools and daycare centres in Seychelles.- Loan repayments reduced for six months.- A 30-day ban on foreign travel by Seychellois citizens.- Government will guarantee salaries of all private sector employees in April, May and June.- Tax payments due in March are postponed until September.- New government budget for 2020 being drawn up. Faure said in a national address that Seychelles has entered exceptional times in light of the coronavirus pandemic and «exceptional in light of the public health emergency. They are exceptional because of the impact of this pandemic on the economy of our country.» A 30-day ban on foreign travel by Seychellois citizens except for medical emergencies will take effect on Monday as part of the new measures Seychelles is taking to address the COVID-19 situation, President Faure said. Seven patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in the island nation. The patients are three Seychellois and four foreigners and are all in the treatment centre at the Family Hospital at Perseverance, a man-made island. In his address on the national television, Faure said, «Confronted with this new situation, tonight I would like to announce that government needs to put in place further measures to stop more infected people from arriving into Seychelles and spreading the virus within our population.» He said that despite «all of the measures that we have put in place and the advisories shared, some of our Seychellois brothers and sisters continue to travel abroad to places that are at risk.» The President of the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, said that «all foreign workers on a GOP (Gainful Occupation Permit) and outside Seychelles today will not be able to return to the country until further notice. This takes immediate effect.» No new Gainful Occupation Permit will be issued until further notice and this also takes effect immediately. All public schools and daycare centres on the three most populated islands, Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, including the post-secondary institutions will remain closed until further notice. Previously only schools on Mahe had been closed. He said the pandemic is having a huge negative impact on the global economy. Seychelles, as a small country, has not been spared. «I would like to assure you that we will do everything we can to ensure that no employee loses their job, and no business shuts down as a result of this pandemic,» added Faure. «The objective of the measures I am announcing tonight is to keep the economy afloat during these exceptional times we find ourselves in,» said the President. This includes the government guaranteeing the salaries of all employees in the private sector for the months of April, May and June. A total of SCR1.2 billion ($88 million) has been budgeted for this intervention. No redundancies will be approved. Furthermore, the budgetary allocation for the Agency of Social Protection will be increased to be able to support those who are affected. A sum of SCR30 million ($2 million) will be allocated to the Agency for Social Protection. He also announced several measures that the government will take to support those who are affected including private businesses experiencing difficulties during these exceptional times. «Government will provide financial assistance to these struggling businesses to ensure that all of their employees are paid in April, May and June. We are finalising the structure through which this will work and we will start making the first payments in mid-April,» said Faure. In addition, the government will be providing businesses with the means to pay their employees as no redundancies will be approved by the Department of Employment. He said that «loan repayments will be reduced for a period of six months, following work between the Central Bank and commercial banks. In exceptional cases, there will be a moratorium on loan repayments during this period. This will cover both interest and capital repayments in this six month period.» Faure announced that all tax payments due in March are being postponed to September 2020 while payments for all other taxes whose deadlines are in April, May and June will remain in place. To encourage more local food production, the President said that the Seychelles Trading Company will buy everything that is produced if the farmer wishes to sell to STC. He added that 14 plots of land have been identified and will be made available to the Farmer's Association for further production. Interest rates for investment loans in agriculture or fisheries will be reduced to 1 percent. Faure said that «In light of these exceptional times, the government will present a new Budget for 2020 on 31 March. Our priorities have changed. I call upon the National Assembly to approve this new Budget.» He also took the opportunity to thank everyone working on the frontline of this pandemic. «We owe a profound debt of gratitude to all our health professionals and all volunteers. I know that you are sleeping just three or four hours a night. I thank all workers protecting our borders and who interact with visitors every day. This includes everyone working at the Airport and Port,» he said. He said Seychelles will remain in this exceptional state for some time to come «but if we keep up our guard, follow advice from the Department of Health and take practical precautions to protect ourselves and our families, we will be able to keep our economy going, and carry on with our daily lives. In such a crisis, everyone has a part to play.» «I am confident that we will overcome this great challenge ahead of us. It will not be easy. It will require a great deal of sacrifice from each one of us. But if we continue to work together and always stay united, we will move forward together,» he concluded. 

Seychelles and COVID-19: US, Australian nationals, foreign yachts banned; 7th case confirmed

The Seychelles' Public Health Authority on Friday announced a temporary ban on foreign yachts entering the country's waters effective immediately, while the list of banned nationals was expanded to include Americans and Australians, the latest efforts in the
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: US, Australian nationals, foreign yachts banned; 7th case confirmed

The Seychelles' Public Health Authority on Friday announced a temporary ban on foreign yachts entering the country's waters effective immediately, while the list of banned nationals was expanded to include Americans and Australians, the latest efforts in the fight to control the spread of COVID-19. The public health commissioner, Jude Gedeon, said Seychellois residents returning home from Australia and the United States will have to go into quarantine for 14 days. Seychelles has a ban in place on visitors from Europe, China, Iran and South Korea, areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. According to Gedeon, a large group was planning to come to the islands for vacation but the local authority has not endorsed this, as he explained that the visitors coming by sea view Seychelles as a safe zone. «We have seen that a lot of yachts, pleasure crafts are escaping here, so we are stopping this with the collaboration of the  Ports Authority. We cannot have activities in our waters which we do not have control over, while we try to handle a serious situation in our country,» said Gedeon. He added that these pleasure crafts will not be granted permission to remain in Seychelles. On Friday, the island nation recorded its seventh positive case of COVID-19. The latest patient - a Seychellois - was in contact with the Ukrainian who tested positive on Wednesday. The confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Seychelles -- 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean - are three Seychellois, two Dutch nationals, one Ukrainian and one Mauritian. The condition of one of the Dutch couple, a man, was described as critical and he has been put on ventilation.  In the meantime, the Health Department also announced that it is relocating its isolation centre from the Anse Royale Hospital, in the south, to the Family Hospital at Perseverance - a manmade island on the northeast coast of the main island of Mahe. The chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Danny Louange explained that the move is to deal with confirmed cases with more efficiency. «We have seen in accordance with our plan and case management guidelines, that Anse Royale will be overwhelmed and will not be enough for us to care for our patients. So we have moved to this facility which has more resources and where we can better treat our patients who are in isolation better,» said Louange. 

Hand sanitiser a sought-after product in Seychelles amid COVID-19

Hand sanitiser is a hot -- and mostly sold-out -- commodity in Seychelles amid the spread of COVID-19. SNA visited a few pharmacies to see how sales of hand sanitisers are going and discovered that not one of those visited in Victoria, the capital, had any o
Seychelles News Agency

Hand sanitiser a sought-after product in Seychelles amid COVID-19

Hand sanitiser is a hot -- and mostly sold-out -- commodity in Seychelles amid the spread of COVID-19. SNA visited a few pharmacies to see how sales of hand sanitisers are going and discovered that not one of those visited in Victoria, the capital, had any of the alcohol-based product. «At the moment we do not have any hand sanitiser at the pharmacy, in fact, we ran out of stock three weeks ago. In just two days we sold almost 600 bottles,» the pharmacist at Lifecare Pharmacy, Selva Kumar Natarayan, told SNA. He added that contacts were made with suppliers in Mauritius and India to order more stock who said that «they also have run out of stock.» Natarayan said that another option would be to turn to the African continent to find another supplier. Behram's Pharmacy, located across the street from Lifecare, was also out of stock, but the number of people walking in and asking for the commodity has not gone down. A walk into Seychelles Trading Company Supermarket at the Orion Mall building and Cosmorama proved no different. All is not lost as SNA learned that a local company is selling hand sanitisers. While browsing on social media, SNA came across Pastel Cosmetic Seychelles on Facebook, which is importing the much-sought-after commodity. Pastel Cosmetic is selling hand sanitisers at SCR249 ($18) for one-litre bottle and SCR99 ($7) for 250 millilitres. Using hand sanitiser is one of the ways that can help reduce the risk of infection. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY Other than using hand sanitisers to get rid of bacteria, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is advising people to follow basic protective measures against COVID-19. Keeping the hands away from the face also reduce a person's chance of being infected. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses and once contaminated, they can transfer the virus to the eyes, nose or mouth. People are being asked to regularly and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water as this kills viruses. Alcohol-based hand rubs such as sanitizers are great alternatives when there is no immediate access to soap and water. Practising social distancing is also advised with maintaining at least one-metre distance between individuals.

Japan welcomes Olympic flame as doubts swirl over Games

The Olympic flame arrived in Japan Friday to a muted reception, what should have been a joyous celebration dramatically scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic that has cast doubt over whether the Tokyo Games can even go ahead. The flame landed on a spec
Seychelles News Agency

Japan welcomes Olympic flame as doubts swirl over Games

The Olympic flame arrived in Japan Friday to a muted reception, what should have been a joyous celebration dramatically scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic that has cast doubt over whether the Tokyo Games can even go ahead. The flame landed on a special charter flight into Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi province, chosen as part of the «Recovery Olympics» to showcase the region's revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. Former Japanese Olympians Saori Yoshida and Tadahiro Nomura collected the flame from the aircraft and took it to a cauldron in the shape of a cherry blossom on a stage in front of selected guests. But some 200 local children that were due to welcome the flame were kept away as part of what organisers called the «heartbreaking» decision to pare back events as the world battles the virus that has killed nearly 10,000 people. After a speech by chief organiser Yoshiro Mori, the former Olympians lit the cauldron with the torch, also designed to represent Japan's cherished cherry blossom. «Children had planned to welcome the Olympic flame, but we decided to scale it down, giving priority to their safety,» Mori said. The actual torch relay begins on March 26, starting from the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima that was commandeered as a base by workers scrambling to contain the fall-out from the nuclear meltdown. «The Olympic flame relay is the biggest event ahead of the Olympics. It is very important for us to carry it out at any cost,» said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto ahead of the ceremony. But organisers have been forced to scale back what should have been a key event to raise awareness and excitement ahead of the July 24 opening ceremony. While spectators are allowed to watch from the roadside, fans have been urged to «avoid forming crowds», with organisers warning there could be a change of programme in the event of «excessive congestion». Daily arrival and departure ceremonies are closed to the public and all torch-bearers will have their temperatures taken before participating in the relay, which is scheduled to visit every part of Japan on a 121-day journey before entering Tokyo. - 'Bigger than the Olympics' - The virus has already played havoc with the traditional early stages of the torch relay in Greece -- the lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia took place without spectators and was watched by a severely reduced delegation from Tokyo. Organisers were then forced to scrap the Greek leg of the relay after large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit a cauldron in the city of Sparta. With borders shut in Europe -- which has become the epicentre of the crisis -- Tokyo officials did not travel to collect the torch, with former Olympic swimmer Naoko Imoto representing Japan at the official handover. As the flame arrived, there are increasing clouds over the Games, with some athletes past and present attacking the International Olympic Committee for insisting there is no need for «drastic» action such as postponement or cancellation. Japan Olympic Committee member and former Olympic judoka Kaori Yamaguchi was the latest prominent figure to suggest a postponement in a newspaper interview published the day the flame landed. «It should be postponed under the current situation where athletes are not well prepared,» Yamaguchi, a JOC executive board member, told the Nikkei daily. As well as wiping out the global sporting calendar, the coronavirus has also put paid to many athletes' training schedules, leading some to propose a postponement. The IOC, which will take any decision over the fate of the Games, has encouraged all athletes to train for the Games «as best they can», stressing it is «fully committed» to holding the event as planned. Nevertheless, IOC president Thomas Bach has admitted that qualifying is becoming a problem as competitions are scrapped. He said in an interview with the New York Times published Friday that the IOC was «considering different scenarios» for the Games but stressed that the Olympics were still four and a half months away. © Agence France-Presse

Seychelles and COVID-19: Flights from Europe likely to be suspended, official says

Flights to Seychelles by European airlines are likely to be suspended in the coming weeks in view of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the island nation's airport remains open to support other air services, said a top official on Thursday. The ge
Seychelles News Agency

Seychelles and COVID-19: Flights from Europe likely to be suspended, official says

Flights to Seychelles by European airlines are likely to be suspended in the coming weeks in view of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the island nation's airport remains open to support other air services, said a top official on Thursday. The general manager of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), Florence Marengo, said, «We are recording a decrease in frequencies from all the carriers serving the route which is normal as there is a temporary ban on visitors from Europe, our major market.» She told SNA that to date there is no ban on flights to and from Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. European airlines connecting to the island nation include British Airways, Air France, Edelweiss Air, Condor and Air Austral. She said that «Qatar will also be suspending flights up to May.» According to SCAA, there are 14 airlines with connecting flights to Seychelles, including Air Seychelles. Weekly frequencies currently stand at 77 and without the airlines that will be suspending their flights, this will be reduced to 60. Marengo said the airport will maintain its 24-hour operations to continue providing support to international and domestic air services, be it for cargo or passengers. «It is important to note that airlines serving the route also carry goods (cargo), quintessential in ensuring that the economy continues to run in this difficult time,» she added. Marengo said that with the COVID-19 outbreak now a pandemic, SCAA is reviewing its current measures in place in a bid to reinforce preventive efforts. The Ambassador of France to Seychelles, Dominique Mas, told SNA that the Embassy is «establishing a network to respond to French nationals and tourists currently in Seychelles who wish to return to France.»  He added that the Embassy is «in constant contact with the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, travel agencies, and airline companies to see the availability of flights. We also have many tourists from Reunion in Seychelles at present, who also need to return to Reunion. We are trying to ensure that flights are not totally interrupted.» Mas said that the French Embassy has also sent messages on social media advising French nationals to cut back on their holidays and to return home. He said that this is not because French nationals are scared of the situation in Seychelles, but rather because of the fact that Europe is slowly closing down all its borders. Air France is not embarking any Europeans to fly to Seychelles «but Seychellois who wants to return to Seychelles might be able to do so, but will be put immediately under quarantine for 14 days,» added Mas. Meanwhile, Air Seychelles said on Wednesday that it will implement further changes on its route network. Effective as of March 23 until April 19, Air Seychelles will reduce its flights to Mauritius, Johannesburg and Mumbai in addition to suspending its services to Tel Aviv until April 22, said the airline. Charles Johnson, the chief commercial officer of the airline said Air Seychelles will «continue to evaluate our flight schedule on a daily basis, while also focusing our energy on handling the needs of repatriating Seychellois citizens overseas and ensuring cargo demand is met.» Air Seychelles has extended its waiver policy until 30 April to provide travellers with more choice and flexibility when changing their tickets. Seychelles has six confirmed cases of COVID-19 which includes four foreigners and two Seychellois.

Public transport in Seychelles to go cashless to help prevent the spread of COVID-19

The Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) says no cash exchange will be allowed on its buses as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19.  The deputy chief executive of the company, Maxwell Julie, told a press conference that commuter
Seychelles News Agency

Public transport in Seychelles to go cashless to help prevent the spread of COVID-19

The Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) says no cash exchange will be allowed on its buses as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19.  The deputy chief executive of the company, Maxwell Julie, told a press conference that commuters will have to register for a bus card – which is free - which they can then load up and swipe on the bus. “We are insisting that commuters use travel cards on buses again. This will help with the protection of the public and our drivers,” explained Julie. Cards are available at the Victoria, Anse Aux Pins and Port Launay bus terminals. Julie said the company had previously planned plan to go cashless on its buses and now those plans have been accelerated. People can load their cards with a minimum amount of $4 and a maximum of $37. Bernadette Sophola -- general manager for operations at SPTC -- said that on a daily basis up to 50,000 people use public transport. “This includes visitors, the general public and school children. But as the schools are closed, around 30,000 commuters use the public buses on a daily basis.”   On a daily basis, up to 50,000 people use public transport. This includes visitors, the general public and school children. But as the schools are closed, around 30,000 commuters use the public buses on a daily basis (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY Though commuters will still be accepted on buses if they do not have a card; it is expected that they do the necessary in the shortest possible time. The company explained that this measure is one in a series to improve hygiene following meetings with the health authority and joining national efforts to contain the spread of COVID – 19. “With the recommendations and guidelines from health, we have started to sanitise and disinfect the bus terminal including benches and toilets. With the toilets we are doing this more often,” added Julie. The deputy chief executive added that even the chemicals used are those recommended by the Public Health Authority.   With the recommendations and guidelines from health, SPTC hs started to sanitise and disinfect the buses, bus terminal including benches and toilets.  (Daniel Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY These measures are also being implemented on the second most populated island of Praslin. The company has set up its own COVID – 19 task force and in addition, SPTC’s in house nurse is giving training to all staff on how to protect themselves and the people they serve. Seychelles Public Transport Company is the only public transport company in Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – and runs from 5:30 am to 8:30 at night. 

4 women in Seychelles who helped advance gender parity in politics

March is the month when women’s achievements are celebrated and recognised. This week SNA looks at Seychellois women and politics. At one point the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) ranked Seychelles the fifth-highest country in the world in terms of women i
Seychelles News Agency

4 women in Seychelles who helped advance gender parity in politics

March is the month when women’s achievements are celebrated and recognised. This week SNA looks at Seychellois women and politics. At one point the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) ranked Seychelles the fifth-highest country in the world in terms of women in its parliament, with a representation of 44 percent. SNA presents four Seychellois women who left their marks on the political scene of Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.   Hilda Stevenson-Delhomme - first Seychellois female politician Born on March 8, 1912, the politician was elected as one of the members of the Legislative Council in 1948 and in 1953. She formed her own political party -- “Parti Seselwa”. Stevenson-Delhomme became Seychelles’ first female parliamentarian following her appointment as member of the National Assembly in 1967. Stevenson-Delhomme died in 2001 aged 89.   (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY   Rita Sinon – first woman minister in Seychelles’ cabinet of ministers. Sinon was born in Kenya in 1943 to a Seychellois mother and a Kenyan father. Sinon was a politician who led the Women’s League formed in 1970. Sinon became the first female Minister of Seychelles when she was appointed Minister for Internal Affairs on 19 September 1986. Her husband Guy Sinon - a founding member of the Seychelles Peoples United Party - and her son Peter Sinon also served in the Cabinet of Ministers. She passed away on May 8, 1989.   (Peter Sinon/Facebook)  Photo License: All Rights Reserved    Marie Louise Potter – first female Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly. Marie Louise Potter was first elected a member of the National Assembly for Seychelles’ People's Progressive Front in 1993. In 2007 Potter became the first woman to assume the powerful role of leader of Government Business in the National Assembly. Potter subsequently left the assembly and in 2012 was appointed as the Permanent Representative of Seychelles to the United Nations, and the Ambassador to the United States. She retired from these posts in March 2017.     (State House) Photo License: CC-BY   Alexia Amesbury - the first Seychellois woman to contest a presidential election in Seychelles in 2015 Amesbury is a well-known Seychellois lawyer, politician and human rights, activist. Hailing from the second-most populated island of Praslin, in 2015 Amesbury became the first woman to contest a presidential election in Seychelles. Amesbury is the leader of the Seychelles Party for Social Justice and Democracy which she founded. Often referred to as a human rights crusader Amesbury was in February this year elected to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.    (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY

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