Speech by President Danny Faure on the COVID-19 situation
27 March 2020 | State House
Seychellois brothers and sisters,
Today marks just under 2 weeks since 14 March, the day we received concrete evidence that the coronavirus had entered our country.
In my first address on the subject of the coronavirus, I said that if the virus arrived in Seychelles, we would take all necessary measures to take control of the situation early and reduce its transmission. When I spoke to you last week, the number of patients here in Seychelles who had tested positive for the coronavirus was 7. Today, this number remains 7.
This means that over the last week, luckily, nobody has tested positive for COVID-19 here in Seychelles. Health workers, volunteers and many others continue to work extremely hard, day and night, to carry out the necessary work. For the moment, there is still no evidence of community transmission: that is, spread of the virus from an unknown source.
It is extremely important that we remain cautious and continue to practise preventive measures in line with the guidance from the Department of Health.
This virus does not know borders, race, religion, or financial means: it is an invisible enemy. In such a situation, in order for us to confront this virus and come out victorious, we need to always be on our guard. It is imperative that we respect authority and the measures in place.
We need to reorient our daily life habits in line with maintaining physical distance. Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that can help stop the spread of infections.
Tonight, I would like to announce that from Monday 30 March, all shops will be closed from 1830 as a measure to avoid people gathering outside.
Another legal measure that will take effect from Monday 30 March is the prohibition of gatherings of more than 4 people in public places.
In view of this public health emergency, we will continue to review existing laws to ensure the Public Health Commissioner is able to continue taking the necessary measures to protect our health.
Our country is taking measures appropriate to the specificities of our context, and in line with the public health emergency we are in.
I know that these measures are not easy. What is important is that we realise all of these measures are in place to protect and safeguard us.
Government has approved a special allowance for all health workers working on the frontline of this pandemic. This will also apply to staff in immigration and customs at the port and airport.
We have 3800 home carers looking after our elderly. They will also receive a special allowance during this period on the condition that they continue to work; continue to give care and attention to our elderly.
For those children receiving financial assistance through the dedicated fund, the Agency for Social Protection will make a direct transfer to parents during this period to ensure no child is affected.
For those citizens on welfare with a special STC card, we have made arrangements so that the same card can be used to purchase gas.
It is in challenging times, like the situation we find ourselves in today, that we can appreciate the social protection system we have created. More than ever, we need to consolidate it and make it more effective.
We continue to increase our capacity for treatment. On Wednesday 25 March, we received more equipment and medicine from the UAE and the Jack Ma Foundation. On behalf of the Government and people of Seychelles, thank you so much.
We have also received support from the Governments of Kenya and Tanzania for additional health professionals as soon as we need.
Seychellois brothers and sisters,
I am satisfied to see that there is a great effort from our citizens to adapt and adopt new measures faced with this situation we are in. We need to remain consistent with our efforts. We all need to continue maintaining our discipline and cooperation.
Let us stay well-informed. Let us stay calm. Let us stay united.
Seychellois brothers and sisters,
It took 67 days for the number of people in the world testing positive for this illness to reach 100,000. After this, it took only 11 days for another 100,000 people to test positive. And only 4 days after that to reach 300,000 people. Today, more than 500,000 people in the world have been infected.
As a result, following this past week, it is clear that the repercussions of COVID-19 on the world economy will be worse than expected. The world as a whole is facing a new economic reality.
It is also clear that even if we get through the next few months without the spread of COVID-19 among our population, Seychelles is entering a new reality full of uncertainty.
When I presented the State of the Nation address earlier this year, I was proud to share the economic accomplishments of our country. All of these were accomplishments we achieved together. We were doing very well.
We started 2020 with a great deal of hope that our country would progress even further. Unfortunately, without any warning, COVID-19 happened. It dramatically affected our socio-economic development. As a result, we need to consolidate our social protection system and adopt measures for us to overcome this great challenge we are facing.
In 2008, our country was in a precarious position. Our reserves were very low and our debt levels were extremely high. In November 2008, as the global financial crisis started, we launched our economic reforms.
Every year since 2008, Government has run a primary budget surplus, and we used this money to repay our debts. Last year, for the first time in 10 years, we had a current account surplus: that is, more foreign exchange flowed into our banking system than left.
We worked very hard together, all of us, to bring our economy to where it is today. We sacrificed, we persevered, and we progressed. It is as though for 12 years, we were climbing a mountain and almost at the top. In the space of less than two weeks, we watch ourselves sliding down, and today, the peak of the mountain is much further away.
This coronavirus has set us back. But it will not stop us.
We will realign. With our experience, determination and discipline, we will start climbing again, and together, we will climb even higher. I am confident that as a country we will get through this challenge.
The difference between 2008 and today is that in 2008, despite the global economy experiencing uncertainty, international travel was not limited. Today, as a result of this global pandemic, many flights have stopped coming to Seychelles, and we no longer have visitors. As a result, our economy is not functioning at its usual level.
We need to review our expenditures. Review our priorities. It is within this context that the Minister of Finance will present a new Budget on 31 March in response to this new reality we are facing.
We will all have to make sacrifices in the coming months. We all need to take our responsibility. As President of the Republic, I have chosen not to take a salary for the next 3 months.
Things will not be the same as before. Given the fall in tourism, our foreign exchange revenues have dropped, and as a people we need to make an effort to reduce our consumption of imported goods.
On a macro-economic level, we are much more resilient today. Additionally, there are many factors at the moment working in our favour:
- The price of fuel in the international market has dropped. As a result, the amount of foreign exchange we need to import fuel for transportation and electricity is less.
- With the reduction in fuel prices, the costs of logistics and transportation have also dropped. This implies a reduction in operational costs for businesses and local producers.
- The cost of electricity will be less in April, another reduction in operational costs for businesses and local producers.
- We have an opportunity as a people to increase our consumption of fish and reduce our reliance on imported meat.
- We have agricultural land available to increase levels of production.
Government, through STC, is working with the fishing and agriculture sectors on the Committee for Food Security Surveillance I established to increase the level of local production and effectively manage food supplies.
I am confident in our ability as a people to overcome these challenging times. We need to sustain our hope that our tomorrow will be bright. Our destiny is in our hands. We are a resilient, innovative people. It is in times like this that our strength and capacity to adapt is evident.
Together, we will get through this. We made it in 2008 and we will make it in 2020.
Let us maintain this spirit of working hard. Let us maintain this spirit of working together. Let us maintain our unity.
I was touched to hear of the great number of individuals and businesses offering assistance to the Department of Health in numerous ways. On various media platforms, there are many people sharing words of encouragement for our health workers and workers from other sectors working overtime to respond to the situation we are in.
Tonight, I would like to thank everyone working on the frontline of this pandemic. We owe a sincere debt of gratitude to all our health professionals and all volunteers. My equal thanks to all other workers assisting in this national effort for the professionalism and devotion demonstrated every day.
We all need to continue working together, in the same spirit of solidarity. When we act together, our combined results are much more powerful than the sum of our individual efforts. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. Our small Seychelles becomes bigger and stronger.
I was particularly moved by the actions of a 12-year old girl who gave the Department of Health 230 Rupees to buy something for children in quarantine. What I see in her gesture is human goodness – altruism, compassion, and generosity of spirit and action. Her gesture is a bright light in a moment of darkness in the world – and this should inspire us all.
May God continue to bless our Seychelles and protect our people.
Thank you and good evening.