CORRECTED-Senegal orders all schools closed in response to coronavirus

(Corrects length of school closures)

DAKAR, March 14 (Reuters) - Senegal's President Macky Sall on Saturday ordered all schools and universities closed for the next three weeks and religious festivals cancelled in response to a coronavirus outbreak that has infected 21 people in the past two weeks.

Senegal is the first sub-Saharan African country to close its schools, according to a list compiled by U.N. cultural agency UNESCO. As of Friday, 39 countries had closed schools nationwide, affecting over 420 million children and youth, UNESCO said.

The Senegalese government reported 11 new cases on Friday, all contacts of a man who returned from Italy last week to attend a religious festival in the city of Touba.

"With the appearance of a hotbed of community transmission in Touba, I instructed the government (to adopt) a contingency plan to prevent the propagation of the epidemic," Sall said after a meeting with his advisers.

He added that the army would help build mobile hospitals.

Senegal has confirmed the second most coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, behind South Africa, which has reported 38.

The region did not record its first case until Feb. 28 in Nigeria, but there are now dozens of cases across at least 16 countries. Rwanda and Namibia both announced their first cases on Saturday.


(Reporting by Diadie Ba and Aaron Ross Editing by Frances Kerry)