Seychelles' National Assembly passes non-binding motion to keep borders closed
Wednesday's motion was approved by 18 members while 10 members voted against. (Joena Meme)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles' National Assembly approved a non-binding motion calling on the government to keep the borders closed to visitors until the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide improves and an effective detecting mechanism is put in place.
When presenting the motion, the Leader of the Opposition, Wavel Ramkalawan, said the proposed date of June 1 to open the airport for commercial flights posed a great risk to the island's population. He said he felt the country was not fully ready if ever there was to be a second wave of infection.
"It's not the date that is important but rather the conditions that would lead to the reopening of our borders. To see whether the conditions have changed and what are the preparations in place so that we can be ready," said Ramkalawan.
His statement was reiterated by other members of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) which holds the majority in the National Assembly. LDS members who intervened cited the risk posed by an early reopening and said the health of the people should not be compromised for economic stability.
Wednesday's motion was approved by 18 members while 10 members voted against.
Members from the United Seychelles party who spoke on the motion said this decision should be left to health experts as they are the ones better placed to decide on the date for reopening of the island's borders to visitors.
"Politicians should be guided by scientists and medical experts on the matter and politics should not interfere with public health," said proportionately elected member Johan Loze.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, started easing restrictions Monday for people working in offices, shops, retail-home deliveries, food outlets, restaurants, mobile units, spas, hairdressers and barbers, postal services, fishing industry, construction and tourism activities.
Commercial flights are to resume from June 1.
The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, explained in a press conference last Thursday that the airport's reopening "does not mean the airport will be opened for anyone who wants to fly in or out." He said that he did not expect tourism to immediately resume.
He said the reopening of the airport would cater for other commercial activities including cargo, technical stops, transits, private transfers, people who are coming in to replace crews on a vessel.
According to a public health regulation orders released on Sunday, no person or class of persons shall enter into or exit from Seychelles except with the written authorisation of the Minister responsible for health and subject to such restrictions or conditions as may be specified in the permission.
Some 74 percent of Seychelles' total revenues are generated by tourism, and the island nation has been hard-hit by the closure of the borders especially with its main tourism markets in Europe, namely France, Italy, Germany and UK.