People in Seychelles are being advised to wear face masks as a preventative measure against COVID-19 in areas where social distancing cannot be practised, a high official said Tuesday.
The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a press conference that the decision comes after he and his team have received concerns from businesses having problems implementing social distancing while delivering a service.
The Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC), "ferries and the domestic airline have difficulties to make people practise social distancing. We understand that if they cannot manage to do this, they will need to leave people behind and their activities become commercially unviable," said Gedeon.
He said that the health authority is sending a letter to SPTC on Tuesday on the procedures to use to allow more passengers on buses.
"If they are telling us that they need to let more passengers board the bus to occupy all seats, these people will necessarily need to wear a mask when they are on the bus. We will later see if there will be a need to put in place a law where persons not wearing a mask will not be allowed to board the bus, or they will be fined. The same applies for ferries, however, on planes this is mandatory already," continued Gedeon.
Gedeon explained that the decision to relook at their guidelines is also based on new recommendations made by the World Health Organisation (WHO).He added that masks will also need to be worn in bus stations as well.
On June 5, WHO issued a health advisory on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19 after the organisation reviewed its guidelines based on evolving evidence. The organisation is now urging people to wear facemasks in crowded spaces.
In the press conference, Gedeon said that these masks can be handmade at home and hence do not necessarily need to be the commercial types. For individuals who want to sew their own mask, he advised that they look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) approved DIY face mask instructions.
He stressed that masks need to be used and disposed of properly and that hand sanitation plays a great role when using masks.
Gedeon also announced that since Seychelles has reopened borders for commercial flights and marine leisure craft on June 1, the health department has received five application from private jets out of which three have been approved as they met set criteria.
"We had applications from 16 private yacht, 14 of which have been approved and are already in our waters and using our services. We do not have any applications for chartered flights at the moment and we anticipate that as we approach July, and as the outbreak is better controlled in many of our tourism markets, we will be able to ease more restrictions," said Gedeon.
Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, is COVID-19 free after all 11 patients who tested positive recovered. At the moment there is no-one in quarantine and the health authorities are using this time to train health and safety officers from hotels and other tourism-related businesses.
"This is important as these people will be our eyes and ears in the tourism sector. We think that by end July or August most of the tourism sector will be ready to receive clients on a commercial basis," said Gedeon.