Covid-19:  Preventive Measures Disrespected in Cameroon
View of Bamenda city from mountain road

Covid-19 preventive and containment measures instituted by the World Health Organisation and the state of Cameroon are gradually being neglected and abandoned particularly in the NW region and across other towns of the country.

Cameroon’s Prime Minister, Dion Ngute in March 2020 instituted a 13 measures prevention and response plan aimed at stemming the spread of the pandemic. Such included no gathering of more than 50 persons, physical distancing, house confinement, limitation of interurban travelling, closure of schools, compulsory wearing of face masks and washing of hands with soap among others.
Over 5 months after, almost all these measures are being abandoned despite the disease still lingering on. In Douala, Yaounde, Bafoussam and the Northern regions for example, other towns inclusive, hardly does one find persons on the streets wearing face masks. Hand washing stations are becoming very scarce, travel agencies, markets, bars, churches are getting more and more overcrowded. Sports activities and school attendance are rather on a steady increase.
Tita Stanley is a taxi driver in Bonaberi, Douala. He told DataCameroon many places like Kwasa-Kwasa, a renowned night joint for nocturnal activities have never shutdown. He himself has no personal hand sanitiser and has never won a mask. He strongly believes Covid-19 is a scam. At Santa Lucia, a super market in Bonaberi, children as young as 5 years sell face masks outside. Stanley, my driver told me those buying the masks to wear aren’t doing so because of Covid-19 but because no customer is allowed to enter the supermarket without putting on his or her mask.
Luam Valentine is a Pidgin News broadcaster on Buea basef PSTV. Assessing the respect of preventive measures in the SW region, he observed that « Government imposed Covid-19 preventive rules and regulations have been abandoned here. In Buea for example, there’s no more social distancing, hand sanitisation, wearing of face masks and the few persons who even try to wear the masks do so only when they see the military as if they are carriers of the virus. » Valentine revealed to DataCameroon that he recently covered an inter quarter football finals in Mutengene where thousands of spectators with no masks on stood crowded round the pitch. He observed that just a single hand washing bucket was stationed somewhere near the field, unfortunately, with no water inside.
Matazem, in Santa subdivision is the main entry point into the NW region from the West. had reported in March that all persons travelling into the region have to undergo a basic medical check at the Toll Gate where a thermal camera, an ambulance and a health team were stationed. Unfortunately, that was then. The initiative was short lived and today, no such screening of passengers goes on there again except long identification cues. The place is always overcrowded in the early mornings and late evenings because only few officers are tasked to check identification documents of hundreds of passengers. No one checks Covid-19 signs and symptoms again as before in these road users.
As observed, vendors of foodstuffs and vegetables at Matazem hardly wear face masks despite the presence of law enforcement officers. Tarka Edna sells plums here. Asked why they’re not wearing masks, she said « All of us selling here are screened for Covid-19 once every week and since our results are always negative, we don’t really see the need of wearing face masks. »
In Bamenda, chief town of the NW region and its surrounding divisions and subdivisions, a majority of people quizzed shared same view that they wear masks because of the military who ironically hardly wear the masks themselves. Samuel Atigi is Executive Director of the Mandela Voluntary Foundation, Bamenda. His organisation used to fill empty public hand washing buckets with water to combat Covid-19. The initiative unfortunately died down. Why? He says « The initiative couldn’t be sustained due to financial constraints. » Assessing the respect of preventive measures as at moment, Samuel said « Many of us especially young Cameroonians aren’t serious. We think Covid-19 affects only old people while we’re immune. »
Covid-19 screening campaigns are ongoing in major parts of the region. Atigi recently did his and was laughed at by his peers. « I’ve discovered more women than men and youths endeavour wearing face masks and frequently wash their hands. People still don’t take this thing serious » Atigi regretted. DataCameroon affirms that truly, many people are no longer wearing face masks because of Covid-19 but rather to avoid any questioning from government soldiers charged to collect fines from defaulters.
Journalists have been at the forefront of the campaign, constantly sensitising their audiences, viewers and readers with information on the pandemic. Unfortunately, a majority of the journalists themselves haven’t been respecting the prevention rules. To Ambe Macmillian Awa, president of the Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) NW Chapter, « It’s because of the mistrust people have for the government that many discards the preventive measures coupled with the decreasing number of deaths and international relaxation of such measures as borders, schools and other public places are reopening »
MTN Cameroon used to caution her users to observe the basic rules or call 1510 if necessary, each time they had to place a call. The initiative had long stopped. Contacted on August 27 2020 through 8787 to find out why, the agent at the Customer Service responded that it was due to numerous complains from clients that management had to stop the pre-call Covid-19 message.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, the nation (Cameroon) became gripped by Covid-19 campaigns here and there as foreign and national organisations, individuals, politicians, religious authorities, financial institutions, local councils, individuals etc kept making donations of Covid-19 kits. The press was hijacked by daily handing over of buckets, sanitisers, masks, soap and lessons that became the leading news item. Several controversies have been surrounding the disease. At moment, some medics are saying there’s a cure for it, others saying not yet.

By Fongoh Primus Ayeh

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