23, March 2020
The number of Cameroonians carrying the deadly Coronavirus is increasing at a speed that is causing the country’s authorities to lose sleep.
Despite efforts by the government to draw attention to the danger waiting to strike the country, many Cameroonians have continued to live a life of recklessness.
In Douala and Yaounde which are heavily populated, many people have been going about their business as if nothing is happening despite the gory pictures coming out of Italy, China and the United States.
In Yaounde, the nation’s capital, army soldiers on Saturday resorted to force to close down many watering holes where there many people eating and drinking as usual in defiance of the government’s rules against the virus that is killing people around the world.
In Douala, bar owners have come up with brand new tricks to keep their clients. Rears doors into the drinking spots are now being used to access these drinking places which are potential hotspots.
Thousands of Cameroonians are still visiting their local crowded markets to buy and sell as if there is no danger. And musical shows are unfortunately still a feature of the city’s social landscape.
The government knows it has a crisis on its hands and it is using its limited resources to raise awareness of the danger that is prowling the country’s streets.
But the message does not seem to be hitting its target. Cameroonians love their alcohol and with it, come many problems. The insidious virus loves crowds as that makes it easy for it to spread and Cameroonians are willingly granting it a platform for it to spread like wildfire.
While the government might be doing its best, it’s best is simply not good enough. So far, testing and diagnostic equipment is only available in Yaounde and Douala and 70%of the country’s population lives in other towns and cities.
Ever since the government came out with a slew of preventive measures, Cameroonians have continued to travel from one city to another in total defiance of government regulatory efforts aimed at containing the virus.
Like most European countries, the country’s government has also made some attractive noises about a possible lockdown, but these measures are more nominal than real.
Cameroon is not organized like Western countries and its citizens are noted for their indiscipline and disregard for the law.
Schools have been shut down, and some businesses have also been asked to close down for a period of time that might help to slow down the virus’ spread. A very great initiative that must be hailed. It is proof that the government wants to act.
However, its measures seem to be dead on arrival as the country’s citizens are simply ignoring them. Maybe if the government had followed up with supporting measures like Western countries have done, Cameroonians would have been very happy to comply with the government’s anti-coronavirus rules.
It will be hard for the country to be locked down as many Cameroonians do not have a steady source of income like people in the West. Many Cameroonians must go out every day to hustle in order to earn a meager income that will enable them to feed their families.
Store owners have to open for their clients to continue buying, and they themselves have to go to the big markets in downtown Yaounde and Douala to get supplies that will guarantee them a steady flow of income. This makes things really hard and the virus seems to be making hay while the sun shines in a country that also lacks proper healthcare facilities.
The hardest hits are commercial sex workers who can no longer display their assets in public, especially at night. The military is patrolling the streets of Yaounde and Douala at night and this is scaring clients of this old trade that has always been a huge vector in the spread of viral diseases such as HIV and Ebola.
The hardworking women of this sector are facing tough times and there are no government tax incentives to support the women who are being avoided by their former clients. If there are no tax incentives for registered businesses, it will be hard for the informal sector to have any financial support from the government.
The commercial sex sector is therefore under threat. This is a vulnerable sector. Since viruses are mostly transmitted through body fluids, it is clear that many of those who patronize this sector will prefer to keep a safe distance, as any close contact with these women could spell death.
This is not the first time that the sector is facing tough challenges. In the 1980s when HIV/AIDS became the new boogeyman, many commercial sex workers had to flee the streets and before anti-retroviral could be engineered, a generation of efficient commercial sex workers had been retired against their wish and without a retirement income. That is for those who were smart and lucky to leave early as HIV/AID had decimated the population of those involved in this business.
The government of Cameroon must continue to implement its measures to ensure that the virus is constrained. It must use the media to get its messages across. The Coronavirus is nobody’s friend and it has no regard for class.
Presidents, parliamentarians, lawyers, doctors and others are today its victims. If any Cameroonian still has doubts about what the virus can do, he or she should just watch TV to understand that this virus is extremely virulent.
It has hit Italy like a tonne of bricks, left Donald Trump with a sticky situation and made mincemeat of the global economy. The global tourism sector is the hardest hit and it will take many months for this once vibrant sector to recover. Many people have been laid off and as the virus continues to spread across the globe, many are scared that it will take a long time to find a cure for this virus that is still a challenge to scientists.
By Dr. Joachim Arrey