Address by President Danny Faure on measures to address the COVID-19 situation

Address by President Danny Faure on measures to address the COVID-19 situation


20 March 2020
Compatriots,
Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters,

Seychelles has entered exceptional times, they are unprecedented. They are exceptional in light of the coronavirus pandemic. They are exceptional in light of the public health emergency. They are exceptional because of the impact of this pandemic on the economy of our country. They are exceptional because of the impact on our social practices and traditions as a people. Tonight I will announce additional measures that we need to take in these exceptional times.

As I speak, 7 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 here in Seychelles. All of the 7 patients are in the treatment centre at the Family Hospital at Perseverance. Health workers, Red Cross volunteers and many others continue to work extremely hard, day and night, to carry out contact tracing and other necessary work.

At the moment there is no evidence to suggest that there has been community transmission of this illness: that is, spread of the virus from an unknown source.

Our quarantine system is effective, but the more people we have in quarantine, the more pressure is placed on our human and logistical resources.

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.

Following discussions that I had with the Public Health Commissioner today, Dr Jude Gedeon, it is clear that a public health emergency exists. In such a situation, the law gives power to the Public Health Commissioner to make use of any additional resources to respond to the situation. The Public Health Commissioner will publish a notice in the Official Gazette on Monday 23 March on this subject.

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.

First: from Monday 23 March, I am imposing a 30-day ban on all foreign travel by our citizens, except for medical emergencies as approved by the Department of Health. The legal instrument to allow for the implementation of this measure will be published on Monday 23 March.

Second: all foreign workers on a GOP and outside Seychelles today, will not be able to return to the country until further notice. This takes immediate effect.

Third: No new GOPs will be issued until further notice. This also takes immediate effect.

Fourth: all public schools and day cares on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue will remain closed until further notice. This includes all post-secondary institutions, the University of Seychelles and the Guy Morel Institute.

Fifth: as Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces, I have asked military personnel who left the Defence Forces in the last 3 years to join the Reserve, in line with the existing law. This will give us further resources in these exceptional times.

Sixth: We are increasing the capacity of our quarantine and treatment facilities.

We will receive more equipment and medicine from friendly countries.
With the support of the World Health Organisation, we have finalised a programme to receive additional human resource support if necessary.
In the next 3 weeks, we will have a new quarantine facility on Ile du Swet.

Seventh: I have asked all Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Government to identify human resources to follow rapid training in contact tracing, with the aim of supporting the Department of Health and increase their capacity to carry out their work.

Today, on behalf of Government, I express our solidarity with all Seychellois citizens abroad. I urge you to follow the advice of healthcare authorities in your respective countries.

I commend the efforts of all public servants, private sector employees and members of civil society who are doing their best to adapt to this ever-evolving situation we are in. I ask that they continue to follow advice from the Department of Health; listen to official announcements on radio and television.

Tonight, I call upon each one of us to avoid using social media to spread confusion and create fear. This is not necessary. What is necessary is that we follow the Public Health Authority for the latest and accurate information on the pandemic.

Let us stay well-informed. Let us stay calm. Let us stay united.

Dear Seychellois brothers and sisters,

This pandemic is having a huge negative impact on the global economy. Seychelles, as a small country, has not been spared.

Tonight, I would like to make it clear that the economic damage as a result of this pandemic will be real.

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.

What is clear to me is that once this economic tsunami passes, the global outlook stabilises, and tourists return to our shores, Seychelles needs to be in a good position to bounce back, and bounce back fast.

The objective of the measures I am announcing tonight is to keep the economy afloat during these exceptional times we find ourselves in.

First: Government will guarantee the salaries of all employees in the private sector for the months of April, May and June. A total of SCR1.2 billion has been budgeted for this intervention. Government will not approve any redundancies.

Second: Government will increase the budgetary allocation for the Agency of Social Protection so that they are able to support those who are affected. A sum of SCR30 million will be allocated to the Agency for Social Protection.

Third: Government will increase the budgetary allocation for the Unemployment Relief Scheme (URS). A sum of SCR10 million will be allocated to the Department of Employment.

Fourth: In exceptional cases, loan repayments will be reduced for a period of 6 months, following work that the Central Bank has done with the commercial banks. If necessary, an individual can get a moratorium for loan repayments over this period. This will cover capital repayments and interest repayments during this 6-month period.

Fifth: following a drop in international oil prices, PUC has seen a reduction in their cost of electricity production by 25 cents per unit. Government has decided that the electricity tariff for the public sector will remain the same. This will allow PUC to pass this extra benefit to the other sectors so that in the domestic sector people see a reduction in electricity tariffs by more than 25 cents per unit.

Measures for private businesses experiencing difficulties during these exceptional times are as follows:

First: 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.

Second: given that Government will be providing businesses with the means to pay their employees, no redundancies will be approved by the Department of Employment.

Third: loan repayments will be reduced for a period of 6 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 6 month period.

Fourth: for those businesses that find themselves in need of more liquidity, the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank are finalising a framework by which these businesses will be able to access credit quickly and more affordably.

Fifth: with regards to taxes for businesses:
All tax payments due in March are being postponed to September 2020.
Corporate Social Responsibility Tax, Tourism Marketing Tax, and Business Tax payments for April, May and June are also being postponed to September 2020.
Payments for all other taxes whose deadlines are in April, May and June will remain in place (i.e. they will be due in April, May and June respectively).

Sixth: for the agriculture sector, Government will ensure that through STC, everything that is produced can be bought (if the farmer wishes to sell to STC). Furthermore, Government has identified 14 plots of land that will be made available to the Farmer’s Association for further production.

Seventh: interest rates for investment loans in agriculture or fisheries will be reduced to 1%.

Eighth: following the decision of Government to maintain the electricity tariff for the public sector, the commercial sector will also benefit from a reduction of more than 25 cents per unit on their electricity tariffs.

Ninth: contributions that employers are required to make toward the Seychelles Pension Fund – the 3% on the salary of their employees – for April, May and June will now be due in September 2020.

Compatriots,
Seychellois brothers and sisters,

The measures I have announced tonight are to address the situation we are in today. I would like to reassure you that we are doing everything possible. As we have seen, this is a dynamic situation, and if we need to do more, we will.

As I said last week: Government will continue to do whatever it takes to continue to protect our people.

Following a meeting with the Commissioner of Police this week, I am satisfied with the measures in place to ensure law and order in case of any eventuality in these unprecedented times.

In order for us to overcome the challenges caused by this pandemic, health and economic measures alone are not enough. What is also critical is the psychosocial aspect of this fight.

It is important that people remain calm and responsible. STC and SEYPEC have shown that we have a solid stock of fuel and essential commodities. PUC continues to supply electricity and water. Ports remain open and goods continue to come in.

In light of these exceptional times, 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.

Tonight, I would like 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 who interact with visitors every day. This includes everyone working at the Airport and Port.

My equal thanks to all other workers assisting in this national effort for the professionalism and devotion they demonstrate every day. Their patriotism is an inspiration.

I would like to take this opportunity to also thank religious organisations that have been proactive and taken measures to reduce social contact and mass gatherings.

We all need to continue working together – especially in the coming months.

This is a time for us to reflect on what we represent to one another. For us to continue educating our children on the necessary precautions they need to take. If you have elderly neighbours, remember to check up on them. Give them the support and care that they might need. Help explain to others the precautions we all need to take. Take note of how we treat each other. Our family values. Our community values. What bind us together as Seychellois.

Seychelles has never faced a crisis of this magnitude. It is times like these that truly test our character as a nation. We need to rally our efforts to remain well-informed, calm and united in this moment.

We 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.

Seychellois brothers and sisters,

Let us continue to pray together for strength, courage and the good health of our people.

May God continue to bless our Seychelles and protect our people.

Thank you and good evening.