A partial re-opening: Seychelles takes first small step toward return to normal
Among the employees resuming work on Monday are those in food outlets closed since April 9. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The first group of employees resumes work on Monday as Seychelles partially lifts restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jules Baker, principal secretary of employment, told a press conference last week that different groups of people will be going back to work on a transitional basis.
The slow return to normal follows weeks of shutdown following 11 positive cases of COVID-19 in the island nation. It's now been four weeks since the last positive case, which officials have cited as the reason for the re-opening. Still, life isn't expected to return fully to normal for months in Seychelles, as the global tourism trade has come to a screeching halt and is not expected to re-open anytime soon.
Restrictions on the movement of people were reinforced after the 11th positive case of COVID-19 was recorded on April 5. Since then there has been no new case in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
"On May 4, there will be a category of people going back to work,” said Baker and these will be those working in offices, shops, retail-home deliveries, food outlets, restaurants, mobile units, spas, hairdressers and barbers, postal services, fishing industry, construction and tourism activities.
On May 11, another group will start work as daycare and childminding services will resume. Working parents will be able to go back to work," said Baker.
A third group will resume duties on May 18 when all primary and secondary schools will reopen.
Some parents' ability to return to work is linked to the reopening of daycare and childminding services as well as schools, since they applied for special leave under the Employment (Coronavirus Special Leave) (Temporary Measures) Regulations, 2020.
|Some parents will be able to return to work when daycares and childminding open next Monday. (Joena Meme, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The regulations which were signed on March 30 allow workers to take special leave of absence from work in certain specific situations.
An article published on the department of employment's website states that working parents with children under 15 years and workers who are required to go into isolation or have contracted the virus are entitled to take the special leave. So can workers in businesses that have temporarily stopped operations fully or partially and their presence are not required at work.
"This is applicable only as from March 16, 2020 until the Minister indicates an end date, by way of a notice published in the gazette," reads the article.
Attorney General Frank Ally said that with the lifting of the prohibition of outdoor movement order "if the worker is not already on special leave because they have a child under the age of 15, they are no longer on special leave."
He said that "an employer has the right to ask you to come back to work. If the employer does not request for the worker to come back to work, the employee is deemed to be on special leave."
The Public Health Authority has worked closely with government bodies and certain private organisations to establish guidelines under which work resumes as of May 4.
Baker said that depending on the size of office spaces and the ability for a workplace to observe the guidelines, certain adjustment on how work will be carried out will be undertaken.
"Some employees will need to work on a rotational basis even if the workplace is open. The Public Health Authority will organise how workplaces in the private sectors such as shops that sell non-essential items and casinos will resume operation," explained Baker.