250TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS
(Posted 20th April 2020)
The year was 1770 when 15 French, 5 Indians and 7 Africans laid the foundation of what has today become an independent nation of about 95.000 inhabitants, united by the Creole language and the truest rainbow nation anywhere in the world.
They were at the time no doubt more concerned with making a living from day to day than looking 250 years ahead, when they started the first permanent settlement of what was later on to become the Seychelles.
The archipelago, often referred to as the paradise islands, comprises 115 islands and has one of the largest marine territories in the world, much of it now protected areas both around the islands and into the open ocean.
The entire year 2020 was one of many events planned to lead up to the main celebration of that quarter of a millennium, plans which were nixed by the outbreak of #COVID19 and the pandemonium this caused around the world.
Seychelles was among the first countries to institute a complete lockdown by air and sea to prevent more cases being brought into the country, when the first individuals were diagnosed with the virus.
Out of 11 cases today only 6 remain active with five individuals having recovered and been discharged from the treatment centre to rejoin their families while a total of 66 individuals overall remain under a mandatory 14 day quarantine from their day of arrival. This gives hope that the remaining 6 patients too will sooner or later be diagnosed as cured, ending the pandemic in the Seychelles but definitely not letting up on vigilance and border closures.
It is not the first time the Seychelles islands have been hit by an epidemic. In the early 1800’s was Cholera ‘imported’ from Mauritius through slave ships. Later, around 1830, were cases of leprosy reported – leading eventually to the isolation of such cases on a single island – while a few years later did Smallpox claim hundreds of lives at the time before the disease ran its course.
Dates for some events to celebrate 250 years of settlements have obviously passed but once the general restrictions on movements pass will other events still take place, however in accordance with guidelines from health authorities in Victoria.
How foreign visitors can participate in the celebrations is at this stage not known, given how aggressively the disease is raging in the main source markets for tourists for the islands, Germany, France, Italy, the rest of Europe but also Russia, India and China. It is expected that even when travel resumes, visitors may have to offer proof of not being infected and maybe even undergo rapid tests on arrival in the Seychelles, questions the entire world wide travel industry must now ask as a return to the pre-COVID19 status quo is simply impossible.
Instead of celebrating the 250th anniversary with a new arrival record will numbers this year be sharply lower, as will income and revenues for public and private sector across the islands. With tourism hit so hard could the fishing industry perhaps make up to some degree for the economic downturn but options are limited at best of circumstances.
Presidential elections later this year will no doubt to a large extent focus on policies, legislative and regulatory initiatives of how to mitigate the impact of COVID19 on the islands and its main money spinner, tourism and then, perhaps in a year or two, reach numbers again which can sustain the islands’ people and their businesses.