Seychelles and COVID-19: New major measures: travel banned for 30 days, schools and daycares closed, salaries assured
President of Seychelles, Danny Faure. (State House)
(Seychelles News Agency) - 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.