Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: COVID-19-related restrictions extended indefinitely in Mayotte; restrictions in Reunion easing as of May 11. Disruptions persist.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Mayotte
  • Reunion

This alert began 14 May 2020 17:55 GMT and is scheduled to expire 01 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Reunion and Mayotte (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

The French national government has issued revised measures to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Overseas Territories in the Indian Ocean as of May 11. In Reunion, authorities have begun relaxing restrictions, while authorities in Mayotte have extended existing travel and movement restrictions indefinitely.

The initial phase of Reunion's recovery plan will last through at least June 1. Certain businesses and facilities will be permitted to resume operations provided they comply with social distancing guidelines. However, large shopping centers, cultural sites, and entertainment venues will remain closed, as will cafes, bars, and restaurants. Schools are permitted to gradually reopen from May 18. Residents must wear protective face masks when riding any public transport. Social gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. The local government could impose its own measures in addition to those mandated by Paris.

Airlines have significantly reduced the number of flights between mainland France and Reunion. Nonresident foreign nationals remain banned from entering the island; only those with compelling personal or family reasons, health emergencies, or essential professional tasks are being allowed to travel. Cargo aircraft will continue to operate. Any inbound passenger allowed into Reunion is required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period either at home or in a government-designated facility.

Mayotte, on the other hand, moved to Level-3 emergency preparedness on April 3. As of May 14, the territory has over 1210 confirmed cases and 6 deaths linked to Covid-19; high-local transmission rates amid strained health infrastructure in Mayotte have necessitated the indefinite extension of restrictions in the territory.

Current measures in Mayotte include:

  • The suspension of nonessential travel between cities and towns in the territories.
  • Residents may only leave their homes for essential purchases and medical services. Violations of the stay-at-home measures are punishable by fines and/or incarceration.
  • Public gatherings, including cultural and social events, are prohibited.
  • A 2000-0500 nightly curfew is in effect; essential services are exempt.
  • All of the territory's airports and seaports are closed to passenger aircraft and vessels. The edict does not apply to cargo shipments or the repatriation of French nationals and foreign citizens.

All travelers returning from mainland France to Mayotte will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Airlines have significantly reduced the number of flights between mainland France and Mayotte. Travel certificates are to be completed before entry to French Overseas Territories; this document is available on the French Ministry of Interior webpage.

Further amendments or extensions to existing restrictions are possible over the coming days.

Background and Analysis
The two territories' travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Individuals affected by the restrictions should consider postponing planned travel. Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm non-emergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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