Seychelles, known as the most vaccinated nation in the world, has reintroduced coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions after experiencing a sudden surge in coronavirus cases.

The island nation, which has a population of just under 100,000, has administered 134,475 doses of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the New York Times’ Covid World Vaccination Tracker. This means that about 72% of its population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The vaccines procured by Seychelles were developed by the Chinese state-owned Sinopharm company and the British-Swedish pharma giant, AstraZeneca.

At the time of writing, Seychelles has administered 138 doses per 100 people, making it the most vaccinated country in the world. It is followed by the United Arab Emirates, which has administered 129 doses per 100 people, and Israel, which has administered 117 doses per 100 people.

On May 4, Seychelles Minister of Health Peggy Vidot explained the new measures that will be in place once more. They included a ban on public gatherings, entertainment shows and sporting activities and conferences. Shops, bars and casinos are now required to close earlier than usual, while state, private and post-secondary schools are ordered to close. Only daycare services will remain open for the time being.

The government also encouraged private companies employing mostly non-essential workers to let their employees work from home. The country’s 11 p.m. curfew will remain in place and unchanged. These new measures were announced following a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 Platinum Committee.

In addition to these restrictions, Seychelles also revised its guidelines for foreign arrivals. Now, tourists from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will only be allowed to enter if they have been vaccinated. They must show proof that they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and must wait at least two weeks after receiving their second dose before boarding a plane to Seychelles.

The country’s economy is heavily reliant on international tourism, and it was among the first countries in the world to reopen its borders for tourists.

Despite mass vaccination, Seychelles experiencing surge in cases since end of April

From April 29 to May 1, the country recorded 497 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s cumulative number of cases to 6,373, including 28 deaths. According to the Seychelles News Agency, there are currently 1,068 active cases, 84 percent of which are Seychellois and 16 percent are foreigners.

“These are an upward trend,” explained Gedeon. “We do not know how long it will last but this will depend on what measures are taken and how the new measures are respected.”

Gedeon claimed that nearly 65 percent of the active COVID-19 cases came from the country’s unvaccinated population or from those who have only received one dose of the vaccine. The rest – 35 percent – were detected in fully vaccinated persons. 

“Despite all of the exceptional efforts we are making, the COVID-19 situation in our country is critical right now, with many daily cases reported last week,” said Vidot.

Gedeon said the recent surge of new coronavirus cases has brought the country’s main COVID-19 treatment center – the Seychelles Family Hospital on Perseverance Island – close to its maximum capacity.

According to Vidot, the government is planning to convert a hospital at the southern end of the country’s most populated island, Mahe, into another COVID-19 treatment center. The government is also concerned about the rising number of cases among healthcare workers.

“Obviously when we have a pandemic like this, and we have seen the number of health workers infected, there will always be workers who are off because they have got the virus or is a contact, so this is always a pressure on human resources,” said Vidot. “For the time, we are assuring the public that, with our current capacity, we can continue our services.”

Gedeon, Vidot and other officials who were at the press conference to announce the new restrictions refused to divulge the source of the new surge in cases. They simply connected the surge to the celebrations held in the country after Easter by the mostly Christian population. They also tried to blame people for refusing to take precautionary measures against the coronavirus seriously, such as wearing face masks and observing social distancing.

The Health Ministry is calling on the population to support the country’s efforts against the pandemic by wearing face masks, regularly sanitizing their hands, observing social distancing and abiding by the restrictions put in place.

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