Three crew members of a Spanish fishing fleet operating in Seychelles’ waters tested positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health said Wednesday.
The members were part of 207 African mariners entering Seychelles on Tuesday as part of a crew changing exercise for the Spanish tuna fishing fleet.
The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon told a press conference that “as per Public Health Authority requirements, an exit screening, which include PCR as well as rapid antibody tests for COVID-19, was conducted, within three days prior to their departure from their home countries. All the laboratory results sent to the Public Health Authority and reviewed by that Authority were negative.”
However, rapid testing carried out by the shipping line once the sailors were on board their respective vessels, showed that 20 of them showed traces of COVID-19 in their system.
Gedeon said that the shipping line’s local agents Land Marine and Hunt Deltel contacted the Department of Health and the necessary actions were initiated to confirm the findings and implement containment measures.
Health professionals went on board seven of the ships and retested 11 of the 20 mariners.
“It was dark and due to the weather condition, our staff could not board the other vessels. Out of the 11 men that we carried out PCR tests, three showed positive results. However, all the men are fine. None of them is showing any symptoms and none of them is ill,” added Gedeon.
He said that in line with strict procedures in place the men who tested positive have been put in isolation on board their ship and the whole crew is now quarantined on board their respective vessels.
The Public Health Commissioner also confirmed that the seafarers came on Air Seychelles and that this was done under very strict controls with limited contact with the staff.
The seafarers all wore masks throughout the journey and their immigration and transportation procedures were carried out under strict adherence to standard operating procedures in place.
Though Seychelles has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19 after having 11 people previously test positive, the case of the fishing crew underscores the continued risk that COVID could enter the island nation through air and seaports as the nation hopes to re-open to tourists in August.
The incident comes just one day after a national framework for integrated management of the re-opening of Seychelles frontiers to commercial flights in August was unveiled.
Last week, the National Assembly voted for the ratification of a six-year European Union-Seychelles sustainable fisheries partnership agreement.
Under the agreement, 40 European Union vessels are licensed to fish in the waters of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Currently, only 27 are active – mostly Spanish and French purse seiners.
Fisheries is the second top contributor to the island nation’s economy but with the lack of tourists visitors due to travel restriction in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a greater reliance on the sector as one of the main drivers of the economy in the short run.  
Source: Seychelles News Agency