DAKAR, July 29 (Reuters) – Idrissa Lo returned to Senegal in a hurry from the United States when family members became ill with COVID-19 and died.
On Wednesday, a fifth family member mourned the loss of the virus: one of about 150 Senegalese who died this month when a third wave swept through the capital Dakar, leaving its hospitals almost invaded.
“What I lost two hours ago is my very close cousin. He was young, he was 40,” said Lo, a U.S.-based transportation worker in the hospital garden in the Yoff neighborhood of Dakar. .
“There’s something going on: it’s a real crisis.”
Senegal, which so far had registered less than 44,000 cases and 1,166 deaths, has registered more than 15,000 cases and 139 deaths since early July, according to data from the health ministry.
After comfortably resisting the first two waves of the virus, health services were now dangerously thin, said Dr. Khardiata Diallo, head of infectious diseases at Dakar’s Fann Hospital.
“Patients, especially the younger ones, arrive with difficulty breathing,” Diallo said, his voice broken from exhaustion. “We have never had this number of cases, deaths and serious cases. Frankly, this third wave threatens to drown us.”
Many out-of-clinic infections were undiagnosed, while post-mortems were not routine, he said. “The situation is much worse. What we see here is just the tip of the iceberg.”
In Dakar, the current epicenter of the epidemic in Senegal, each bed was taken with supplemental oxygen for patients with severe breathing difficulties, he said.
Diallo said the hospital lacked oxygen, although demand was so high that delivery workers said some of them worked night shifts to keep up.
Like many African countries facing a third wave of infections, Senegal is more vulnerable because there are few people vaccinated. According to government data, it has administered less than one million doses to a population of about 16 million people.
Overall, cases in Africa have exploded in recent weeks and reached a new record of nearly 50,000 new infections daily in early July.
The Senegalese Ministry of Health has promised to increase vaccinations and this week welcomed new deliveries from Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson of China, as well as a shipment of AstraZeneca as part of the COVAX global distribution program.
The West African nation plans to build a plant to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. Production is expected to begin later this year. The facility will produce 25 million doses per month by the end of 2022. more information
On Wednesday, at Yoff Hospital, hundreds of people lined up to get a vaccine. Many had arrived before dawn and hoped to spend most of the day in line.
“We’re seeing 13-year-olds infected and twenty-year-olds dying,” said 58-year-old Ndeye Dia, who was queuing for a shot since 6 a.m.
Report by Alessandra Prentice and Christophe Van der Perre; Edited by Aaron Ross and Nick Macfie
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