Seychelles is living and breathing tourism. Three Coronavirus cases are currently reported in the Island nation. This is still a very low number, but the Seychelles Government is reassessing its list of countries that are deemed closed for visitors.
Alain St. Ange, former minister of tourism of Seychelles, president of the African Tourism Board and a candidate for president for the One Seychelles political party issued this statement:
Following the confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our shores, Seychelles cannot afford to have misplaced priorities. Given the virus’s rapid contagion, and in light of our country’s limited capacity, the overarching priority of our Government should be to prevent its people from contracting the virus and to cure those who do. Funding needs to be concentrated on these efforts, and any policy decisions or guidelines must be made with this objective in mind.
We commend and applaud the Department of Health’s tireless and often under-appreciated efforts to handle this difficult situation, but we feel more can be done by the Country as a whole to safeguard our people.
One Seychelles makes the urgent call for an open dialogue between the Head of State, leaders of the various political parties, and relevant authorities to address jointly the risks associated with the arrival of coronavirus in Seychelles, the necessary and pressing preventative measures the Nation must employ to ensure no further imported cases of the virus materialize, and the steps to be taken to mitigate any hardships incurred by the business community in Seychelles that depends upon a thriving tourism industry.
Our Government should protect the public from the economic impact of this global health crisis. Those who are hit the hardest should not go bankrupt and lose their livelihood through no fault of their own. A family-operated business in our tourism-reliant country should not shut down because of a local quarantine; it will need support to weather the crisis. As much as the effects of having an outbreak of the virus in the Country are being downplayed, it is anticipated and inevitable that vulnerable employees stand to be laid-off by their employers if the situation gets out of hand.
The President of the Republic has kept his cards close to his chest in this regard, the lack of transparency causing fear and anxiety in most of the population of Seychelles. The decisions he ultimately takes will affect all of us. The lack of affirmative action has prompted a flurry of panicked stockpiling of medicine, food supplies and household items by concerned citizens who do not feel any confidence that the situation is under control and that our small Nation is well placed to effectively grapple with an outbreak.
With other countries around the world taking immediate and drastic action to curb the spread of the virus by closing their borders for a period of time, it is our turn as a Nation to adopt a unified approach between the political leaders and to meet as a group with the relevant authorities, including the Department of Health, the heads of the Chamber of Commerce & Industries, the Praslin Business Association, and the La Digue Business Association. A decision can jointly be made, one which may best reflect the position and concerns of the People of Seychelles.
For instance, the Government should provide tax relief for people and businesses who cannot afford to pay and instigate provisions to ensure interest rates across the board in Seychelles are lowered. We could consider allowing Seychellois VAT registered Tourism related businesses not to be liable for any payment for the coming months of March, April, and May in order to help keep their businesses afloat and also keep paying their employees. Furthermore, employers should negotiate if needed to have their staff take their paid holiday time accrued or ahead of time during the next 90 days to encourage social distancing during this uncertain time.
This is a national problem that can only be solved by uniting for a common purpose and working together.