Seychelles Tourism Minister sets the record straight on plague case

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The Seychelles Tourism Minister is urging the public and media including the international press to be responsible when disseminating information relating to the case of pneumonic plague infection in Seychelles, and has reassured visitors that they can continue to enjoy their holiday in Seychelles.

The Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne said there is a huge difference between the situation in Seychelles, which has so far reported one probable case of pneumonic plague and Madagascar, which is facing a plague outbreak.

In an interview with SBC on Thursday, Minister Loustau-Lalanne said responsible distribution of information is important so as not to create unnecessary panic that can jeopardize the tourism industry.

“It has been reported in the international media that there are three cases of plague in Seychelles, another has said it’s tourist that has brought the plague to Seychelles and both information is incorrect…It’s good to share information but it needs to be validated and official information,” the minister said.

Seychelles reported its first probable case of pneumonic plague on Tuesday, after rapid tests done on a Seychellois man turned out convincingly positive. The man started to develop symptoms including fever on Monday, after having arrived in the country on Friday from Madagascar.

The man who has been hospitalized and receiving treatment in isolation since Monday is said to be recovering well. The Ministry of Health awaits the result of confirmatory tests which will be done at the Pasteur Institute in France. Other people who have had contact with him are also under surveillance and on treatment.

As part of precautionary measures taken, the Seychelles authorities are already discouraging residents from travelling to Madagascar and has taken the strict measure of having Air Seychelles suspend flights to the neighboring Indian Ocean island since last weekend.

Additionally, the government at the request of the Public Health department, took a decision on Wednesday to prevent travelers who have been to Madagascar from entering into Seychelles via other transit points like Mauritius or Kenya.

“We do not want a tourist currently holidaying in Madagascar to then come to Seychelles. So, we have asked all airlines not to bring these tourists to Seychelles, but if they do come the government has taken a decision since yesterday to put them into an isolation center,” said Minister Loustau-Lalanne.

The Seychelles Tourism Board has already communicated this official information to local trade partners as well as its offices abroad as they are also receiving queries from their trade partners including the tour operators. Airline partners serving the Seychelles route are also being asked to communicate these information to their overseas offices.

The Tourism Minister has said that he is confident the all necessary measures are being taken to ensure that the situation remains under control but will continue to monitor how things evolve.

“We will monitor the situation, so far we have had only a few Italians and a few British tourists who have cancelled their holiday to Seychelles as their itinerary also included Madagascar…it’s their decision.

However, I am not worried that we will have a large number of visitors cancelling their holiday, but my appeal is for us to appease the panic in Seychelles so as not to worsen the situation,” he added.

Minister Loustau-Lalanne has called for all stakeholders in the tourism industry to unite and ensure that the current situation does not negatively impact the tourism arrival numbers nor prevent the country from achieving its targeted growth of between 18 to 20 percent at the end of the year.