DAKAR, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Since then, Senegal has registered more than 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including one death. Given the severe sanitary situation, the Senegalese government took actions actively to stop the spread of COVID-19 within the country.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Senegal on March 2 on a foreign national returning to Senegal from vacations.
Days after the first case was confirmed, Senegal already started enhancing temperature checks on passengers at land borders and its international airport. Visits to prisons were also suspended till further notice.
The first four cases didn't cause major panic in the country, however, starting from the fifth when local transmission started, the situation in Senegal becomes worrisome.
Facing the unknown virus, the Senegalese government quickly laid out measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
On March 14, Senegalese president Makcy Sall held an emergency meeting with his national committee on management of COVID-19. After the meeting, he announced several measures, including shutting down all schools, including universities, for a period of three weeks, banning public events for 30 days, and temporary suspension of cruise ships docking across Senegal.
Also, the celebration of Senegal's 60th anniversary of independence was canceled. Macky Sall announced a possible simple military ceremony would take place at the presidential palace, instead of the traditional April 4 parade.
Senegalese health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr announced to add 100 beds in the Children's Hospital in Diamniadio, constructed by China, to quarantine suspect cases. To better fight against false information circulated on social medias, he added people who spread false information would face legal procedures.
Two days later, on March 16, it was Senegalese tourism and air transport minister Alioune Sarr that told the press Senegal would suspend all passenger flights to and from Europe and North Africa for 30 days, starting from zero o'clock on March 19.
Mr. Sarr said the decision to suspend flights from France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Tunisia and Algeria was to stop importing cases of COVID-19 into Senegal.
But, according to him, cargo flights and medical evacuations are not affected by this measure.
Another ministry was mobilized as well in the fight against COVID-19 in Senegal. Senegalese minister of Culture and Communication Abdoulaye Diop asked to implement preventive measures in all cultural space and to raise awareness of the public about the novel coronavirus.
"All available means of communication must be used to regularly educate users and broadcast health information from authorized official sources", he told all local medias chiefs and directors of cultural places.
Abdoulaye Bousso, director of the Emergency Health Operations Center of Senegal's Ministry of Health and Social Action, participated on March 18 in the video conference that connected 24 African countries and the African Union (AU) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), whereby China expressed its commitment to sharing experience and supporting Africa in the fight against the epidemic.
One day later, Senegal decided to close completely from zero o'clock on March 20 its air borders, along with its land and water borders, till April 17.
On March 23, Sall addressed the Nation on national TV, declaring a state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.
"As of midnight tonight, I declare a state of emergency across the national territory," he said, explaining the state of emergency across national territory, together with a curfew, is to raise the level of response to the spread of COVID- 19.
"Tonight, my dear compatriots, and I tell you with solemnity, the situation is critical. The speed of progression of the disease requires us to raise the level of the response," the Senegalese president stressed in his speech.
Apart from the curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day, Sall also banned all gatherings in public space, prohibited public or private meetings of any kind, and ordered temporary closure of public places and meeting places, including worshiping places.
He announced the creation of a Response and Solidarity Fund against the effects of COVID-19, which would be endowed with 1,000 billion FCFA (approximately 1.6 billion U.S. dollars), funded by the state and donors.
According to the Senegalese head of state, some 50 billion FCFA will be devoted to the purchase of food for emergency food aid.
General and specific tax measures would also be taken to support businesses, he said.
As part of the general measures, a partial discount would be granted to the tax debts before December 31, 2019 owed by businesses and individuals. The tax reduction up to 200 billion FCFA for private sector should benefit sectors most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, in particular the hotel, catering, transport and culture industries in Senegal.
"The state of emergency gives us the means to strengthen our capacity and to intensify our efforts to fight and defeat our common enemy," Sall stressed.
On April 1, Senegalese National Assembly voted unanimously on enabling Senegalese president Macky Sall to govern the country through ordinances in regards to COVID-19.
Besides the government, Senegalese people are also mobilized by following the government's prevention measures, including hand washing and keeping social distance of at least 1 meter.
Within the past weeks, most of the shops would squeeze some hand sanitizer on clients' hands at the entrance of the shops. For some others, they are equipped with a thermal gun to take temperatures or even give out face masks to clients before they could enter. Banks and bakeries are limiting number of clients inside the building.
For Idrissa, a security guard in Dakar's Mermoz neighborhood, masks and hand sanitizer are a must now when he goes out running errands.
"I wear masks when I need to go to places full of people, because I think this would help," he told Xinhua, showing his hand sanitizer, a 60ml bottle that cost him only 575 FCFA.
He said he and his colleagues use a lot the product after commuting.
So far, Senegal has reported 207 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Among them, one passed away, but a total number of 66 patients have been cured, the highest in West Africa so far.