Senegal’s spike in COVID-19 cases forces country to re-consider festival celebrations

As major holiday kicks off, the West African nation sounds alarm about possible super spreader event.

Although the West African country experienced a much lower number of deaths and infections than other parts of the globe, reporting only 53,573 cases and 1,236 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the number of cases has risen significantly in the last week. This has placed a huge burden on health services as the Senegalese people prepare their families to reunite for the most awaited holiday of the year, the Muslim holiday of sacrifice Eid al-Adha, called Tabaski in Senegal. Last Friday, President Macky Sall threatened to close borders and impose a new state of emergency if numbers continue to rise. The day after the announcement, the daily record doubled to over a concerning 1,350 cases, reaching levels not seen since the pandemic started.

Faced with a sharp increase in infections, the president and his cabinet are restricting public gatherings and travel and urge the public to continue to wear masks and wash hands frequently. About 30% of the new infections in the country result from the more transmissible Delta variant, according to the Institute for Health Research, Epidemiological Surveillance and Training, one of Senegal's testing labs. To date, only about 600,000 citizens have been vaccinated, in a country of 17 million people. The country has a limited supply of vaccines and is awaiting further deliveries of the Sinopharm and J&J vaccines. Earlier this month, Senegal announced plans to build a COVID-19 vaccines manufacturing plant, with capacity to produce 25 million doses per month by the end of next year.