May 11, 2020 / 9:25 PM / 16 days ago

Senegal to re-open mosques, ease restrictions as coronavirus cases jump

FILE PHOTO: Police officers man a checkpoint during a curfew, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dakar, Senegal April 21, 2020.REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegalese President Macky Sall announced the re-opening of mosques and churches and the easing of other restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus, even as the largest one-day jump in cases was recorded on Monday.

Sall ordered places of worship closed in March and imposed a dawn-to-dusk curfew. Since then, the daily pace of new cases has picked up, 177 on Monday from a previous high of 104, with increasing community transmission in hotspots such as the holy city of Touba.

Senegal has recorded 1,886 coronavirus cases in total, including 19 deaths.

Sall, like other leaders in West Africa, has confronted public pressure to find more sustainable ways to balance public health with economic realities in the face of an epidemic that the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned could drag on across Africa for years.

“In the best of cases, COVID-19 will continue to circulate in the country until the month of August, or even September,” Sall said in an address to the nation. “In this new phase that will last not a few weeks but three or four months, we need to learn to live in the presence of the virus.”

Sall also said the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew would be shortened by one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening and that weekly markets could re-open.

Several other West African governments, including Burkina Faso and Ghana, have announced a similar easing of restrictions this month, while calling on their citizens to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Aaron Ross; editing by Grant McCool

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