Public Health Commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon: ‘Do not travel to La Digue for feast of Assumption’ |05 August 2021
Members of the public are being strongly discouraged from travelling to La Digue for the traditional feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of the island, which falls on August 15 next week.
In an interview yesterday afternoon, Public Health Commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon has strongly cautioned against unnecessary travels to Praslin and more particularly to La Digue.
“Leave the people of La Digue in peace,’’ appealed Dr Gedeon.
He noted that with Covid-19 cases having drastically decreased to four cases on La Digue and eight on Praslin, a rush of people to the inner islands during the long August 15weekend will only drive the numbers up again.
The two islands, with a smaller population than Mahe, have struggled with the Covid-19 during recent months.
One-third of the country’s Covid-19 related deaths have been patients from Praslin and La Digue.
To discourage non-essential movements between the islands, it will henceforth be mandatory for all travelers to present a negative rapid antigen test, taken not less than 24 hours prior to boarding either ferries or domestic flights to the islands.
Rapid antigen tests are currently available at private clinics only, most ranging from R500 to R1200 ‒ adding an additional cost on those traveling to the inner islands.
The ferries and airplanes have to ensure that there is adequate social distancing and that all preventive measures against the virus ‒ wearing of masks, sanitising of hands ‒ are adhered to.
“Following discussions with the Cabinet of Ministers on Wednesday morning, it has been agreed that we need to step up the measures to prevent a resurgence of cases on the islands, especially La Digue,” stated Dr Gedeon.
The Public Health Authority has observed a pattern whereby Covid-19 cases would increase following major religious festivities as were the case after the 2020 Christmas holiday and Easter holiday this year.
Taking into account the popularity of the Feast of the Assumption which sees Seychellois from all over converge on tiny La Digue island, Dr Gedeon stressed that the measures are to prevent a resurgence of infection cases on the island.
“We have presently less than 20 cases between Praslin and La Digue, with only four on La Digue but we have many people who are susceptible to infection and re-infection, so the people of Seychelles should join hands together and leave the people of La Digue in peace.”
“On top of that, there is also presently an outbreak of gastroenteritis among children, mostly those under 5. So far, we have over 60 children who have been admitted in hospital and require the use of drips. We have not seen cases on La Digue and Praslin but having a large movement of people will very likely introduce this virus causing gastroenteritis on these islands,” added Dr Gedeon.
In light of the pandemic, the Roman Catholic church will not hold the traditional procession from the grotto to St. Mary’s church but has instead opted to hold three separate masses during the August 15weekend.
Other customary activities that used to mark the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption, such as beach fiesta, concerts and road shows, are also not going to be held this year.
It is to be noted that mixing of household for non-essential purposes, such as beach parties or barbecues, goes against Covid-19 measures currently in place and Dr Gedeon discouraged those activities on La Digue.
Dr Gedeon’s announcements yesterday came only days after the president, the entire cabinet of ministers and their families attended a weekend retreat at the Hilton Labriz Resort on Silhouette.
When asked why these measures are now being applied following the delegation’s retreat, Dr Gedeon insisted that this activity was undertaken as part of their work, and was not against restrictions in place.
“They did not go there to mix households, each family had their own private residence. The cabinet of ministers holds regular meetings and this time it decided to hold its official business in another location.”
Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 cases keeps taking a positive downward trend with 479 active cases as of yesterday.