After months of restrictions, closed shops, missed family time and diminished nightlife, Seychelles may finally be entering the last phase of the COVID-19 lockdown nightmare.
The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, said Thursday that the government will relax restriction measures as of Monday, April 12 since the island nation's "vaccination coverage is improving and going well, and we have registered a drop in the numbers of admissions to the hospital linked to COVID-19."
Severe cases of COVID-19 are diminishing, he noted, and that means that starting Monday, social and business life can begin a slow return to normal.
"Cinemas, casinos, and standalone bars that were closed are now getting permission to open. Gatherings among family members are now permitted, however it is necessary that they practice restraints, control, and take into account vulnerable people in the households, especially if they have not been vaccinated," said Gedeon.
Grocery stores that were previously allowed to operate until 6 pm will as of next Monday be able to remain open until 8 pm. Gedeon stressed that all grocery stores need to apply for certification by April 15 and a failure to do so will result in the closure of these shop. The same applies to shops not respecting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place.
Family picnics on the beach will now be permitted for up to 10 adults, however, beach parties are prohibited.
"For funerals, there is currently a limitation on the number of people who can attend. The committee that works with the faith-based organisation has been asked to review SOPs relating to funerals so that they can be carried out in a safe manner. Wedding services and regular religious services such as mass and gatherings are being permitted based on their SOPs," explained Gedeon.
Public gatherings such as AGM meetings, graduation ceremonies, receptions for weddings, and meetings among others can take place as long as they abide by the SOPs of the venue.
For sporting activities, individual sports such as tennis and golf are being permitted. Team sports, including training, competitions, sporting events with and without spectators are allowed to be held based on the established SOP of each venue or respective federation.
Seated indoor public shows are permitted but gatherings where people will be standing, both indoors and outdoors, are not permitted. Procession, marches, outdoor rallies, festivals, and fairs are also prohibited.
Restrictions on night movements remain in place between 11 pm and 4 am. The changes in the public order are being drafted by the attorney general.
Gedeon said it is really important that the public assumes their personal responsibilities and continue wearing face masks, practice social distancing and good hand hygiene.
The same applies for businesses as going forward "we would like to see a functioning society without having to go back to the restrictions that were in place," said Gedeon.
Meanwhile, Seychelles also kicked off a vaccination programme for seafarers and new Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) holders on Thursday.
"As of today, a vaccination programme has started among seafarers and we are expected that this will go on for the coming days. These seafarers are working in Seychelles for a long period of time and they go back and forth to sea. It is to our advantage that they get vaccinated during the time that they are working in the country," said Gedeon.
Last Friday, the tourism minister, Sylvestre Radegonde, said that Seychelles has enough vaccine doses in the country to start vaccinating foreign citizens working in the island nation and its waters. The statement coincided with the reception of 1,000 doses of Sputnik vaccines from Russia. Seychelles is currently using Sinopharm and COVIESHILED in its vaccination programme.
In the vaccination programme that started January 10, 93 percent of the targeted population of 70,000 has received their first dose, while 58 percent of people have received both doses. Among the total population, 66 percent have received the first dose and 41 pecent both doses.
Currently, there are 281 active cases in the country and 24 deaths have been registered. A total of 4,395 positive cases have been confirmed in Seychelles since the outbreak started.