Seychelles has imposed new restrictions to contain the pandemic, despite being the country with the highest vaccination rate in the world: 67.7% have taken at least one dose and 61.1% are fully vaccinated.
An epidemic at the end of April, which pushed the incidence of the virus in the country to figures higher than those of India, questions its openness to tourism, as well as the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced in India, and that of the Chinese. Sinopharm company.
“Despite all the exceptional efforts we are making, the Covid-19 situation in our country is critical at the moment, with many daily cases reported,” said Minister of Health Peggy Vidot, during the press conference of Tuesday (4), when new measures were announced to which the 115 Indian Ocean islands that make up the country will be subjected over the next few weeks.
The archipelago, which already has 61% of its population vaccinated with two doses, was again attacked by a Covid-19 epidemic at the end of April, which doubled its number of infections in three days, recording 1,068 active cases on the 3rd May, according to Bloomberg. In one week, the number has doubled again: this Monday (10), the country has 2,486 people under treatment with Covid.
The nearly 100 new cases every day in the island nation, which has a population of nearly 100,000, is putting pressure on the national health care system. Responding to the situation, authorities have forced school closures, tightened time restrictions and banned all group sporting activities and celebrations.
The situation is being taken as a warning sign, especially with regard to the effectiveness of the two vaccines, which has led the islands to be at the top of the vaccination campaigns in the world, being on the verge of having 70% of the population vaccinated. its population – and with the expected immunity of the herd.
But the increase in cases calls into question “how far we have to go to obtain group immunity,” said Yanzhong Huang, public health expert and member of the US Council on Foreign Relations. “This is a critical case for considering the effectiveness of certain vaccines,” he adds, quoted by the Washington Post.
About 60% of the Seychelles population has been inoculated with the vaccine from Chinese company Sinopharm, the doses of which were donated by its regional ally, the United Arab Emirates, while the rest took AstraZeneca’s vaccine, produced in India. .
Both vaccines are considered less effective compared to Pfizer and Moderna, which provide about 95% protection. The World Health Organization recently attributed the Sinopharm vaccine to an efficacy rate of 78% in adults and did not draw any conclusions for the elderly. Also at AstraZeneca, the value is around 79%.
The scenario in Seychelles contrasts with that of other countries which have equally advanced vaccination campaigns, such as the United Kingdom or Israel, and which have seen Covid-19 infections drop significantly.
According to Bloomberg, Daniel Lucey, professor at Darmouth College in New Hampshire, even claims that “there are global implications for what is happening in Seychelles now, given the widespread international use of these two. vaccines “.
Yet island officials reveal that 65% of new cases involve people who have taken one or none of the doses. Its death toll also remains low, with 28 out of more than 6,000 cases recorded in total.
At Tuesday’s press conference, the country’s Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon said he was not sure how long it will take for the trend of infections to reverse, but points out that “it will depend on how the new measures are respected,” said: quoted by the country’s news agency.
Along with their accelerated vaccination campaign, the Paradise Islands were also one of the first countries to resume tourist activity, recording a tourist boom, especially since early May. Compliance with the new restriction measures is therefore not only in the hands of residents.
“Since we reopened our borders on March 25, around 3,000 visitors have arrived, via various airlines, in the space of four days,” Sherin Frances, executive director of the country’s Tourism Council, told Der magazine. Spiegel.
Tourists are not subject to quarantine upon entering the country, nor are they required to be vaccinated, only having to present a negative PCR test carried out within the last 72 hours. “I think that the fact that we are one of the countries with the highest vaccination has played a key role in the recovery of tourists, people see us as a safe country,” Robert Payet, hotelier of the region.
Frances reveals, however, that only 10% of active Covid-19 cases are tourists. This may be because a large portion of visitors are from Israel – the second country with the largest vaccination campaign, with around 60% of its population vaccinated as well. However, he admits that vaccines are “very effective in preventing serious illness and death, but less effective in preventing infections.”
Seychelles is heavily dependent on tourism, which generates 25% of its GDP, after suffering a 13.5% drop in its economy in 2020, according to the World Bank.