Senegal Records First British COVID-19 Variant

Community volunteers distribute hand sanitiser as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 in Dakar on January 22, 2021.
Seyllou / AFP

Senegal has recorded its first case of the more-contagious coronavirus strain that initially emerged in Britain, a research institute in the West African country said on Thursday.

Souleymane Mboup, the director of the health-research body IRESSEF, told a press conference near the capital Dakar that people must “scrupulously” follow virus precautions, since “these variants are transmitted more rapidly”.

As with other countries in Africa, Senegal’s official infection rate is far below levels in the West, having officially recorded more than 25,000 coronavirus cases and 600 deaths since March.

The nation of 16 million people is nonetheless battling a second wave of Covid-19, with the government imposing new restrictions this month, including a night-time curfew in Dakar.

The British coronavirus variant likely emerged in southeastern England in September, according to Imperial College London. The World Health Organization says it has already spread to more than 60 countries worldwide.

This strain is believed to be more easily transmissible because of a mutation of the spike protein, the part of the virus which latches on to human cells.

Health workers in The Gambia — a river state that is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal — detected the British variant on January 14. Another variant originating in South Africa has also been detected in The Gambia.

Mamadou Ndiaye, a spokesman for Senegal’s health ministry, told AFP that the British variant was discovered in an infected Indian national, who has since recovered.


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