Scores of Senegal youngsters arrested for breaking virus curfew

Senegalese police arrested 74 young people on Tuesday night, in a working-class district of the capital Dakar, after they broke a strict night-time curfew intended to curb coronavirus.

A senior police officer said the youngsters were arrested in Medina, a district bordering the city centre, between 8pm and 6am, when people are required to stay home.

“They were hanging around in the streets,” the police officer said.

President Macky Sall ordered the nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew on March 23 in a bid to slow the spread of the virus in the West African country, adding to other measures such as a ban on large gatherings.

But for several days, some youngsters in Medina have ignored the curfew, underscoring the difficulty of enforcing blanket measures.

Images circulating online appear to show some Medina residents defying police officers, or celebrating in groups as relatives are released from quarantine.

Senegal has so far been spared a large coronavirus outbreak, with authorities tracking down people who have come into contact with known cases.

Authorities have recorded 412 cases, with five fatalities. Several cases have been recorded in Medina.

But health authorities are increasingly concerned about a rise in cases that cannot be immediately traced to known infections — an indicator that the outbreak may be bigger than detected.

In addition to the night-time curfew, Senegal has closed schools, banned travel between cities and required people to wear a mask in public transport and shops.

It has not implemented a lockdown, however, which would present a major challenge in a poor country where many informal workers live day-to-day. (AFP)