In an exclusive interview with the Seychelles News Agency on Monday, the head of state of Seychelles – President Wavel Ramkalawan – said the island nation remains a safe destination for visitors and that the archipelego’s world-leading vaccination campaign has proven to be effective.
President Ramkalawan said the Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – is well equipped to manage the COVID-19 situation and will in the near future start vaccinating children aged 15 years and above.
The president noted that Seychelles is a world leader in terms of the percentage of its population that has been vaccinated. Despite that success, the number of COVID cases did rise recently, raising eyebrows and questions and bringins the glare of the world media.
The president pointed out that the vast majority of new cases are among people not yet fully vaccinated.
SNA: Mr. President, what is the current COVID situation in Seychelles?
WR: It seems that during the last couple of weeks the number of cases has increased. We were doing well, but unfortunately with the success of our vaccination, we have seen that people have felt more comfortable and this has come after the opening of the country on March 25. One of the elements that I think is good to note is that the arrival of tourists from Israel, a country that is excelling in the vaccination programme, is significant.
What we can say is that people who are unvaccinated and are against vaccines are those who are sick. We have seen the number of cases; these are people who have not taken any vaccines or people who have received only their first dose. I need to also add that admission cases make up 75 to 80 percent of not-vaccinated people.
These people need to be hospitalised and this in itself shows us that vaccination has had an impact. We are handling the COVID situation well, nobody is dying on the streets as we see in some countries, people are receiving treatment and then they may go home. But it is important to mention that up to this date, Seychelles has not recorded any case of mortality of people fully vaccinated. And this has shown us the efficacy of the vaccination.
SNA: People are saying that the Sinopharm and Covidshield are not effective on the population, is this true?
WR: No. I have followed debates on our vaccination programme and automatically, western countries administering the vaccines Moderna and Pfizer principally, and, to some extent, AstraZeneca, have claimed to have better vaccines thus the decline in their cases. But no, we cannot compare people who have been vaccinated to those who have not. So today there are people who have received the Sinopharm and Covidshield vaccinations, and we have to note that here in Seychelles, we gave Covidshield to people above 60 years old and Sinnopharm to people aged 18 to 60 years old.
We have seen, for instance, a situation at the old people’s home where patients who had received only one dose of Covidshield were infected.
There were no lives lost and the patients have recuperated; this is the efficiency of the vaccine. And after this, when we take a look among the population of those between the ages of 18 to 60 who received Sinopharm. If the vaccine were not effective, people would have died when infected and there would have been many more people requiring hospitalisation.
But what we have seen and like I am saying, in this age group of people needing hospitalisation, 80 percent were not vaccinated. Again this reflects the efficiency of the vaccines. And we want to say that the two vaccines, Sinopharm and Covidshield AstraZeneca have served our population very well.
people may be infected, but they are not sick. Only a small number are. Isn’t this how the vaccine is supposed to help us. So what is happening is normal.
Seychelles is under the microscope because it is a success vaccination story whereas the Maldives, where the occurrence of Covid has doubled in the last week from about 500 to 1200 isn’t.
|The President said “We are happy that Seychelles is leading in the world and the world can use us as an example.” (State House) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: How is the rate of infections in the country, it is stable, how is it?
WR: Yes, what we are seeing now is a surge, and this again is something that happens in all countries after a period of stability; hence we call it a wave. You have a period of stability and then a wave comes, then comes stability and yet another wave. Seychelles is going through that wave. Seychelles is not going through something extraordinary. All countries are going through a wave, even in those countries where they are recording decreases. We do not know when another wave will hit. Seychelles is going through the wave but the country is in the limelight simply because of our success.
Small Seychelles as we are, we are the first in the world and we remain first in the world in terms of vaccination. The world is following us to see what will happen to its efficacy and how vaccines are being analysed. Secondly we will need to know – and research will be conducted in terms of antibodies – how long the antibodies that come through vaccines live in your body before you need a third dose. We are happy that Seychelles is leading in the world and the world can use us as an example.
But small Seychelles has also given vaccines to all foreigners working in our country. With seafarers, Seychelles is being an example to the world because not only are we taking care of our own but we are taking care of any resident in our country, in the same spirit of the WHO Secretary General who said do not only choose who can be vaccinated but rather all can be vaccinated. Again Seychelles will be leading the way as we look at vaccines for children aged 15 and above. Soon, Seychelles may become the first in the world to give vaccines to this age group. Maybe I should also mention that we in Seychelles take the COVID situation very seriously and this is why the minute vaccines were available we went into the vaccination programme. Secondly, when we felt that our population had received the protection we started to remove the restrictions, we allowed kids to go to school, and here we had an extraordinary success because the number of children who contracted the virus is minimum. This has also helped.
We have also reopened businesses so that people can continue with their lives. I must say, here in Seychelles we are proactive and being proactive, of course things will happen. We will continue to forge ahead to prove that we regard the COVID situation very seriously.
SNA: Is Seychelles a safe destination for tourists?
WR: The number of visitors we have received since the opening of the airport has increased. And on the other hand, the number of tourists identified as positive is almost zero. This shows that Seychelles is safe, tourists can come on vacation. On our side we are taking precautions to protect our population in our daily lives and on the other, we have created the space for tourists to come and enjoy their vacations without the risk of being infected. So Seychelles remains safe.
|“Today we also have a clinic that can perform up to 30,000 PCR tests daily. And any tourist coming to Seychelles can have the PCR test,” said Ramkalawan. (Seychelles Medical Services) Photo License: CC-BY|
SNA: Can our health system handle our current situation?
WR: We have discovered that people needing hospitalisation are people who may have high fever or need oxygen, and to date we are okay. We are taking care of our people: In fact now while speaking to you, there are only two persons on the ventilator and they already had other health complications. And this in itself shows, we are taking care of people; they are admitted and are then discharged. They are not in hospital for a long time.
So my message to the world, do not let the figures worry you. Understand that we have the facility to serve those that require oxygen and those with complications and this is the reason COVID related mortality in Seychelles is one of the lowest in the world. We can manage the situation and we remain safe.
SNA: Mr. President, does the country have the capacity to do PCR tests?
Today we also have a clinic that can perform up to 30,000 PCR tests daily. And any tourist coming to Seychelles can have the PCR test. The new laboratory can do tests on any of the main island and it also has a base for swabbing at the international airport. With all this we want to give confidence to tourists. They can do their tests, get their results on time to travel back to their countries. Seychelles is equipped to face any situation, our hospital and the private clinics are equipped to give the necessary treatment.