Senegal: after deaths in Mecca, authorities strengthen health control against Covid-19

Senegal: after deaths in Mecca, authorities strengthen health control against Covid-19
Senegal: after deaths in Mecca, authorities strengthen health control against Covid-19

The Senegalese authorities have implemented voluntary Covid-19 screening tests and reimposed the wearing of masks at the international airport upon the arrival of pilgrims after the death of many faithful in Mecca, they indicated on Monday June 24 . Authorities suspect that a number of deaths were caused by a respiratory syndrome disease like Covid-19, Health Minister Ibrahima Sy said on Sunday during a visit to Diamniadio International Airport.

The minister cited the deaths in Mecca. “Initially, we thought it was linked to heat waves because the temperature was excessively high, but we realized that there is a respiratory syndrome with the cases of death,” he said. -he said according to a recording of his remarks broadcast by the media. “We said to ourselves that, probably, there is a respiratory epidemic,” he added.

PCR tests. The Ministry of Health indicated in a press release published Monday that it had “strengthened the health surveillance system at air borders” by deploying a team to the airport responsible for offering voluntary screening tests and identifying pilgrims presenting flu-like illnesses. . Out of 124 rapid diagnostic tests, 78 were positive for the Covid-19 virus, including 36 subsequently confirmed by PCR tests, the reference technique for detecting infection, the ministry said.

“There is no need to be alarmed, but there is also a need for prevention,” the minister said on Sunday. Saudi Arabia said Sunday that 1,301 people had died during the hajj. The official SPA news agency cited the fact that many faithful had undertaken the great annual Muslim pilgrimage without authorization, and traveled long distances in scorching heat and without appropriate accompaniment.

Rescuers transport a pilgrim affected by heat, in Mina, Saudi Arabia, June 16, 2024 – FADEL SENNA – Mina (AFP)

Five dead. Daily life the Observer reported five deaths among Senegalese pilgrims. Some 12,000 Senegalese have been officially registered to perform the hajj. Their return takes place between the end of last week and the end of June or beginning of July. Senegal had implemented strict controls at the international airport against Covid-19 after the start of the pandemic four years ago. These measures have been lifted.

Since the end of last week, the wearing of a mask has been required when pilgrims board, during the flight and after landing until baggage collection, Tidiane Tamba, public relations manager, told AFP. of the airport. This is valid for passengers traveling on aircraft specially chartered for the hajj, but also for travelers coming from Saudi Arabia on regular flights, he said. The terminal reserved for pilgrimage is disinfected after arrivals, he added.

“Vigilance”. The ministry “calls on the population to be vigilant”. He recommends that Senegalese people close to infected people renounce the celebrations which traditionally give rise to the return of one of them from a pilgrimage.

Charles Bernard Sagna, head doctor of the airport health control service, explained to AFP that the alert was given when the Senegalese medical team based in Jeddah reported “a significant number of respiratory ailments “. “Since the end of (the international health emergency of) Covid, Covid remains endemic in Senegal, at low intensity. Our concern is to avoid recovery,” he said.

His colleague Abdoulaye Bousso, who led emergency operations in the face of Covid, urged people to keep a cool head. “Let’s avoid creating a crisis that doesn’t exist!” Beware of the stigmatization of pilgrims! “, he wrote on social networks. “Every year after the hajj, hundreds of people return from Mecca with respiratory syndromes. Also, hundreds of people die there every year. This will continue to be the case for the next few years,” he said, emphasizing the need for screening and awareness.

Laurent LOZANO

© Agence France-Presse

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