60% of Senegal’s pilgrims tested positive with covid-19

Jun 25, 2024, 11:53 AM

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Senegalese pilgrims returning from Mecca faced a more immediate threat this year: a severe heat wave. The Saudi government allocated 12,860 pilgrimage slots to Senegal, and according to medical authorities, up to 60% of these pilgrims have tested positive for Covid-19, as reported by APA News.

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet declared the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, the virus remains a concern, particularly for individuals who have traveled internationally. Senegal's first group of returning pilgrims reports a Covid-19 positivity rate between 20% and 60%, highlighting the persistent risk of the virus.

Returning under strict health measures, the pilgrims arrived at Blaise Diagne International Airport (AIBD) where Minister of Transport Malick Ndiaye welcomed them on Saturday, notably avoiding physical contact to mitigate infection risks. Charles Bernard Sagna, chief doctor of the health control service at the airport, confirmed the fluctuating positivity rates in an interview with the Senegalese Press Agency (APS).

Since the end of the weekend, seven flights from Saudi Arabia have landed at AIBD, prompting renewed health vigilance and the reimplementation of precautionary measures such as mask-wearing. Dr. Sagna urged pilgrims still in Saudi Arabia to wear masks during their return journey and continue doing so upon arrival in Senegal to prevent further spread of the virus.

In addition to the Covid-19 outbreak, the pilgrims endured extreme temperatures, with Mecca experiencing highs of up to 51.8°C. This year's heat wave claimed 1,301 lives, including five Senegalese nationals. The lack of permits for many attendees exacerbated the situation, according to Saudi authorities.

This confluence of Covid-19 infections and extreme heat conditions underscores the challenging circumstances Senegalese pilgrims faced this year.