A more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain has now been detected in Senegal, its health institute said on Thursday, just as measures to contain the spread of the virus appeared to have stalled a recent surge.
British scientists say the UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, may be up to 70% more transmissible and also more lethal – with a mortality risk around 30% higher.
“Due to the fact that these variants are transmitted more rapidly, which could explain the speed of spread of the disease in some countries, it is imperative that individual and collective prevention measures be scrupulously applied,” Souleymane Mboup, president of the health institute, said on TV.
Health ministry spokesman Mamadou Ndiaye told Reuters one patient was confirmed with the B.1.1.7. variant, and analysis was ongoing to see if it had spread.
The West African country is rushing to provide more hospital beds for coronavirus patients as the infection rate soars, and a lack of capacity means that doctors are only able to admit the most severe cases.
The introduction of a curfew and other measures on Jan. 6 appears to have arrested a steep increase in infections and deaths reported in recent weeks.
Senegal recorded 304 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 25,711, with 614 coronavirus-related deaths reported since the pandemic began.
In a weekly report on Tuesday, the World Health Organization listed 70 countries where the B.1.1.7 variant had been detected.
On Jan. 14, Senegal’s neighbour Gambia recorded two cases of the variant.