Senegal eases coronavirus curfew after protests

Seydina Alioune Djigo

BBC News, Dakar

A riot police officer holds a shield while others try to put out a fire in the middle of the street during protests over a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew
Protests took place in the capital, Dakar, as well as other cities

Senegal has announced it will ease a curfew and lift restrictions on inter-city travel following two nights of protests.

More than 200 people have been detained for questioning by police following spontaneous demonstrations in towns across the country overnight.

The protesters had been demanding an end to the curfew introduced in March to fight the pandemic.

Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said that the start of the curfew would be pushed back by two hours and now run from 23:00 to 05:00 local time.

Transport restrictions are being relaxed and restaurants, gyms and casinos are due to reopen with immediate effect.

Demonstrations started on Tuesday in the holy city of Touba and spread to several cities across the country on Wednesday.

The curfew has been in place since 23 March, when a ban on movement between different parts of the country was also introduced.

Earlier this week, the country decided to postpone the partial reopening of its schools scheduled for 2 June.

The return to school for students in examination classes was suspended after the confirmation of Covid-19 cases among teachers in Ziguinchor in the country’s south.

The BBC Africa Corona Minute 27/05/2020 13:00 GMT

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Senegal president's brother tests positive

The brother of Senegal's president has announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus.

Aliou Sall, who is the mayor for Guédiawaye, said he was being treated at Dalal Diam hospital in the capital, Dakar.

His wife also tested positive for the virus and was being treated at the same hospital.

Mr Sall thanked health workers at the hospital for their professionalism and asked for prayers from the public.

A local news website Leral tweeted about the story:

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Senegal has so far recorded 3,161 cases of coronavirus.

The country has been on a state of emergency that is due to end on 2 June. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Last year, Aliou Sall was at the centre of a BBC investigation that revealed that he had allegedly benefited from lucrative dealings in the gas sector.

Mr Sall denied the claims, which he said were "totally false".

Senegal reopening mosques and churches

A man wears a face mask as he stands on a balcony of a closed mosque in Dakar, Senegal
Mosques are now allowed to reopen for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan

Senegal is easing coronavirus restrictions starting on Tuesday, including the reopening of mosques and churches.

Mosques are now allowed to reopen for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, and churches will also be allowed to accept worshippers.

The night-time curfew has also been reduced by two hours and will now run from 21:00 to 05:00 local time.

Markets and businesses, which have only been allowed to open a few days a week during the lockdown, will now only need to be closed for a day's cleaning each week.

In a televised address late on Monday, President Macky Sall said that Senegalese people would need to "adapt individual and collective behaviour" and "learn to live with the virus".

The announcement came as the country recorded 177 new cases on Monday, the highest jump in a single day since the first case was recorded on 2 March.

Senegal has so far recorded 1,886 coronavirus cases in total, including 19 deaths.

The new measures come amid a push to find a way to balance public health with economic realities, with the virus causing loss of jobs and a slowdown in activity in the continent.

Senegal cancels big party as it leads virus fight

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

A woman wearing a mask next to a Covid-19 poster in Dakar, Senegal
Getty Images
Senegal has become one of the leaders in the fight against Covid-19

Senegal has cancelled giant celebrations to mark its 60th anniversary of independence from France because of coronavirus.

The West African nation has 140 active cases of Covid-19 - 66 people have recovered and one person has died over the last month.

It has become one of the countries in Africa leading the fight against coronavirus.

As well as declaring a state of emergency, closing its land, air and sea borders to all but essential goods traffic and banning public gatherings, it has focused on tracking potential infections.

Anyone who has been in contact with an infected person has been put up in a hotel and quarantined for 14 days.

The mantra of the World Health Organization (WHO) is “test, test, test” - but tests are time-consuming and expensive, something Africa can ill afford.

That all may be set to change as Senegal is working with a UK company to develop a quick, simple, $1 (£0.80) test.

Validation tests are under way.

As the test can be performed without any need for electricity, it would be of particular use for Africa’s rural communities, which often do not have access to power.

More controversially, Senegal has been pioneering the use of an anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, to treat coronavirus patients.

The WHO says its effectiveness has not been proved; other respected medical institutions have warned against the hype surrounding the drug.

But Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Senegal’s culture minister and government spokesman, told the BBC that doctors in the country had seen what he described as “rapid improvement” in patients treated with chloroquine.

“The WHO is not going to tell us what to do,” he insisted.

“Our doctors can do what they want.”

Although with nearly 8,000 confirmed cases across the continent, Africa has not yet been hit as hard as other places there are fears that if and when Covid-19 takes hold, it will be a catastrophe.

Initiatives such as the cheap test Senegal is developing will be essential in saving lives on a continent with weak healthcare and sanitation systems, and populations often vulnerable to disease because of underlying conditions such as malnutrition, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.

More about coronavirus:

Marseille's ex-president Pape Diouf dies of Covid-19

Pape Diouf, former president of French L1 football team Olympique de Marseille
Getty Images
Pape Diouf was previously a journalist and a football agent

Former president of French football club Olympique de Marseille, Pape Diouf, has died after contracting coronavirus - the first death in Senegal from the pandemic.

The 68-year-old man was being treated at Fann Hospital in the capital, Dakar.

Mr Diouf, a Senegalese national who moved to Marseille as a teenager, was president of the football club from 2005 to 2009, according to the AFP news agency.

A statement on the Ligue 1 club's Twitter account said: "Olympique de Marseille learned with great sadness of the death of Pape Diouf. Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseillais as one of the great craftsmen in the history of the club. Our condolences to his family and loved ones."

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Senegal has reported 175 cases to date with 40 of them said to have recovered.

Mr Diouf was among two severe cases reported in the country. He was in intensive care and was about to be evacuated to France but his frail state made it difficult, according to state media.

The country’s capacity to deal with severe cases of Covid-19 is in doubt after health ministry officials said there were only 24 intensive care beds in the country. They hope to add 53 more in the next 10 days.

Senegal has ordered medical equipment worth $5m (£4m), which will include personal protective equipment (PPE), breathing machines and face masks.

More about coronavirus:

Senegal and Ivory Coast declare emergency over virus

A municipal worker disinfects a neighbourhood in Dakar, Senegal
Getty Images
Senegal will deploy military and police to enforce a curfew

Senegal and Ivory Coast have declared states of emergency over the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Senegalese President Macky Sall said the state of emergency would start on Tuesday midnight, accompanied by a curfew from 8:00pm to 6:00am local time (2000GMT to 0600GMT).

The military and police have been ordered to execute the measures.

The announcement was made in an address to the nation on Tuesday in which Mr Sall acknowledged that the country was struggling to contain the spread of the virus.

“Since the appearance of the first case on 2 March, the government has put in place a plan to stem the progression of the disease. But, obviously, we're not there yet,” he said.

Senegal has 79 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus, including eight people who have recovered. More than 1,500 people who are suspected to have been in contact with the confirmed cases are being tracked down.

Mr Sall announced a $1.5b (£1.2b) solidarity and response fund, while $80m (£61m) will be devoted to emergency food aid.

"I say this to you with solemnity - the situation is critical. The speed of the progress of the disease requires us to raise the level of the response," Mr Sall is quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

In Ivory Coast, President Alassane Ouattara said the government would introduce gradual confinement measures and a curfew from 9:00pm to 5:00am local time (2100GMT to 0900GMT) ) from Tuesday.

"Faced with the progression of the pandemic... I declare a state of emergency throughout the country," the president is quoted as saying by AFP during a televised speech.

He ordered the closure of all bars and banned unauthorised movement between the capital, Abidjan, and the interior of the country.

More about coronavirus:

Senegal halts international flights amid virus threat

A woman wears a mask as a protective measure against coronavirus, as she walks with her suitcase in Dakar.
There are 36 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country

Senegal is to close its airspace from midnight on Friday until 17 April, the government has announced in statement.

It means no flights will operate to and from the country's biggest airport in the capital, Dakar, but domestic flights between Dakar and Ziginchor will still go head, as will cargo flights, medical evacuations and specially authorised flights.

So far 36 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Senegal. Two of those people have since been declared virus-free after treatment, while the other 34 remain in hospital.

"Today more than ever, [we have] no other choice but to opt for drastic measures which will be able to definitively halt this pandemic in our country all while preserving the health and wellbeing of the population," the tourism minister said in the statement.

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Coronavirus cases climb to 400 across Africa

Chi Chi Izundu

BBC News, Lagos

There are now more than 400 known cases of coronavirus across the continent, with nations imposing a range of measures to try to prevent the spread.

According to the latest data, the breakdown is as follows: Algeria - 60; Benin - 1; Burkina Faso - 15; Cameroon - 5; Central African Republic - 1; Congo-Brazzaville - 1; DR Congo - 2; Egypt - 126; Eswatini - 1; Ethiopia - 5; Equatorial Guinea - 1; Gabon - 1; Ghana - 6; Guinea - 1; Ivory Coast - 3; Kenya - 3; Liberia - 2; Mauritania - 1; Morocco - 37; Namibia - 2; Nigeria - 3; Rwanda - 7; Senegal - 26; Seychelles - 4; Somalia - 1; South Africa - 62; Sudan - 1; Tanzania - 1; Togo - 1; Tunisia - 24.

While many countries are closing schools, banning large gatherings and shutting borders, in Kenya telecom companies have slashed the cost of mobile money transfers in a bid to encourage people to go cashless.

An anti-corruption court in Nairobi has relocated and set up outside the capital.

There is increasing concern about the potential economic impact in Africa.

People working in other parts of the world are likely to have less money available to send to their families back home so there is likely to be a drop in these remittances.