By: Mafany Tande Myles/www.africanakua.com, Cameroon
[Edited by Richard Fiebor]
In the evening hours of March 17, 2020, Prime Minister, Head of Government of the Republic of Cameroon, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute over state television CRTV announces the following measures (dubbed the 13 virus laws by denizens) to take effect from March 18, 2020 till further notice:
1-Cameroon’s land, air and sea borders will be closed: consequently, all passenger flights from abroad will be suspended, with the exception of cargo flights and vessels transporting consumer products and essential goods and materials, whose stopover times will be limited and supervised: Cameroonians who wish to come back home should contact our diplomatic representations.
2-The issuance of entry visas to Cameroon at the various airports shall be suspended
3-All public and private training establishments of the various levels of education, from nursery school to higher education, including vocational training centres and professional schools, will be closed;
4-Gatherings of more than fifty (50) persons are prohibited throughout the national territory;
5-School and university competitions, like the FENASSCO and University games are postponed;
6-Under the supervision of administrative authorities, bars, restaurants and entertainment spots will be systematically closed from 6 p.m.;
7-A system for regulating consumer flows will be set up in markets and shopping centres;
8-Urban and inter-urban travel should only be undertaken in cases of extreme necessity;
9-Drivers of buses, taxis and motorbikes are urged to avoid overloading: law enforcement officers will ensure they comply;
10-Private health facilities, hotels and other lodging facilities, vehicles and specific equipment necessary for the implementation of the COVID-19 pandemic response plan in Cameroon may be requisitioned as required, by competent authorities;
11-Public administrations shall give preference to electronic communications and digital tools for meetings likely to bring together more than ten (10) people;
12-Missions abroad of members of Government and public and para-public sector employees are hereby suspended;
13-The public is urged to strictly observe the hygiene measures recommended by the World Health Organization, including regular hand washing with soap, avoiding close contact such as shaking hands or hugging, and covering the mouth when sneezing.
These measures have been largely neglected by most Cameroonians. Most see the COVID-19 pandemic as false and continue to go about their daily activities. They continue overcrowding in automobiles, assemble in large numbers and open their entertainment spots till very late hours.
63% of Cameroonians surveyed by Africa Nakua in the regions of South West and Littoral express general dissatisfaction at the imposed closure of schools and other institutions of learning while beer parlours and restaurants are allowed to remain open till 6 PM.
Currently, Cameroon has recorded over 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19, largely in the cities of Douala and Yaoundé, respectively the economic capital and the political capital of Cameroon. On March 24, 2020, Cameroon recorded her first death due to the virus. On that very day, Cameroonian saxophonist and renowned musician Manu Dibango died of COVID-19 in Paris, France.
Section 260 of the Cameroon Penal Code states that ‘whoever by his conduct facilitates the communication of any dangerous infectious disease shall be punished with imprisonment from 3 (three) months to 3 (three) years. Still on March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Ngute has ordered appropriate sanctions – based on the above law – to be applied to any defaulter during this COVID-19 response. This order came after a meeting with other ministers discovered that there are many people who do not adhere to the precautionary measures instituted by the State of Cameroon.
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cameroon rise, panic spreads across the national territory. The rumour of the Hantavirus surfacing has even raised more alarms. Perhaps now, the unbelievers of COVID-19 will see that it is indeed real and not s friend to anyone. One can only hope that the protective measures issued by the government of Cameroon and the World Health Organisation are respected by Cameroonians as reality kicks in.