File picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Cameroon accused of not taking coronavirus seriously

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Jun 4, 2020

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Cape Town – Measures implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Cameroon have triggered mass criticism as the country most affected by the virus, compared to other central African countries, is accused of taking the virus lightly.

With late border closures, no containment period, bars, restaurants and discotheques remaining open, masks imposed late, schools and universities reopening prematurely, Yaoundé, the country’s capital seemed to stall and then sail on sight, suggesting that its authorities did not take the danger of the Covid-19 seriously when many other African countries imposed radical measures very early on, according to news publication Africanews.

President Paul Biya, who has been in power for nearly four decades, only appeared publicly on television in mid-May, pressured by the opposition and even the World Health Organisation (WHO), after more than two months of deafening silence.

Meanwhile, all his African peers very early on, publicly at least, took up the torch of the fight against the virus.

In less than three months, the number of reported cases rose from one to more than 6,500 in early June, with more than 200 deaths out of a population of more than 25 million.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Monday reported that Cameroon had recorded the highest number of Covid-19-related deaths compared to other central African countries.

“We are seeing a particularly serious progression of the epidemic. It’s extremely serious,” Professor Eugène Sobngwi, vice-president of the scientific council at the health ministry, told the press on 24 May, brandishing the risk that Cameroon could become “the laughing stock of the world”.

The assessments “should not alarm us because so far the government has been in control of the situation”, Health Minister Manaouda Malachie replied on state radio on Monday, also in response to countless worries and criticisms on social networks.

This progress is the result of the government’s “calamitous management” of the pandemic, although Albert Ze, a Cameroonian economist specialising in health issues, told AFP that “we missed the opportunity to contain the virus from the outset”.

Cameroon did not close its land, air and sea borders until 18 March, 12 days after the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed and weeks after many other African countries. 

Other restrictive measures, such as physical distancing on public transport and closing bars and restaurants, had to wait until mid-March as well, but only after 6pm, the publication said.

Until 30 April, when the government unexpectedly eased these restrictions, bars, restaurants and discos were allowed to reopen after 6 pm, and measures to distance public transport were eased.

African News Agency (ANA)

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