Until now relatively untouched by the coronavirus epidemic, Senegal is now facing an explosion of Covid-19 cases due to the spread of the Delta variant. In Dakar, the health system is under great pressure because the hospital beds dedicated to Covid patients are full and health personnel are “on the verge of rupture”.
The West African country has suffered a third wave of viral infections in recent weeks, with cases rising from a few dozen a day at the end of last month to around 1,700 in July.
Health authorities have recorded most of the new cases in Dakar, a city of more than three million people.
The national director of public health establishments, Ousmane Diallo, told AFP that the third wave was more severe than the previous two.
“We are overwhelmed and close to saturation, with nearly 99% of the beds occupied in Dakar,” he said, explaining that the city has 602 hospital beds.
Medical staff in the capital are “very tired and exhausted,” Diallo added.
The bed occupancy rate is around 45% in the rest of the country, he said.
An increase in coronavirus cases is also delaying the receipt of Covid test results in the poor nation of 16 million people.
Health ministry spokesman Mamadou Ndiaye said the laboratories were “overwhelmed due to high demand”.
Senegal has recorded more than 57,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, including more than 1,200 fatalities.
There are fears that last week’s Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which saw many people travel to meet their families, may increase the number of cases.
Senegal’s vaccination campaign resumed on Saturday after an interruption, with the delivery of 151,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
So far, around 640,000 people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
President Macky Sall has threatened to close borders and restrict domestic travel if the health situation deteriorates.
He has so far avoided imposing strict measures to curb the virus, relying instead on personal liability.
The curfew and limits on gatherings were lifted after riots broke out in March.