BULLETIN #001 ON COVID-19 IN CAMEROON

The Coronavirus pandemic has already led to more than 340,840 cases with at least 14,582 deaths worldwide. Since the first case in sub-Saharan Africa appeared the number of new cases has risen exponentially. Cameroon already has 56 cases and trends suggest that this will get worse unless appropriate initiatives are taken to curb the spread of the virus.

Already 56 confirmed cases in Cameroon. This is where the United States was on 100 cases just three weeks ago

At least 5 percent of COVID-19 cases will require intensive care management

The Cameroon health system, like most in Africa, has considerable difficulty to cope with a challenge of this magnitude. The country has less than 500 critical beds in total with limited human or fiscal capacity for expansion to deal with the observed 5% of COVID-19 patients who will present with severe manifestations of the disease. Health care settings maybe become overcrowded with cases of COVID-19 associated with high levels of hospitalizations and deaths. It is why the only hope for the country is an aggressive prevention strategy.

Still few cases of local transmission… this is expected to rise rapidly in the coming weeks

Reports from the Ministry of Public Health shows that most of the cases of COVID-19 are imported cases. On the 17th of March 2020, the Prime Minister made a communique instructing the government to implement measures to curb the spread of the virus. His accent was on prevention. There is hope that if these measures are effectively implemented the chain of transmission will be broken. See www.nkafu.org.coronavirus. Among the prevention measures were social distancing, avoid large gatherings, closure of all Cameroonian borders, regular washing of hands, etc. Unfortunately, social distancing is not being observed and lack of basis infrastructure limit ability to practice regular hand washing.

Testing Capabilities

There is only ONE (1) testing center in all of the country – the Centre Pasteur in Yaounde. This remains a major problem as major cities such as Douala, Bamenda, Bafoussam do not have testing capability. Chinese billionaire and founder of Alibaba, Mr. Jack Ma has donated 20,000 testing kits to each African country which have been delivered to the African CDC in Ethiopia. These testing kits are urgently needed in the country.

Government strategies so far

The government has taken some steps, but they are largely insufficient. Quarantine needs to be MANDATORY and enforced. Non-essential travel between major cities should be restricted and enforced. Churches and other religious establishments must stop having public services. It is also important for the government of Cameroon to involve artists, society leader, churches, and traditional rulers in their sensitization efforts and should taking into account the social and cultural dynamics of the communities to adapt content for best results. The most appropriate language should be used to design content and community health workers should work with alongside local administrative and traditional authorities. The government should use community-based approaches to communicate and sensitize the population about the virus and resources should be deployed into efforts aimed at limiting the spread.

Steps we must take right now

  • Enforce a 2-week ban on all public gatherings.
  • Using the available 20,000+ test kit, conduct massive testing of all individuals who have been in contact with known cases, airline crew, airport employees etc to rapidly identify cases and quarantine appropriately
  • Quarantine should be enforced and away from home. Facilities can be requisitioned and converted into quarantine centers
  • Community leaders and Quarter Heads should to engaged to help identify cases in their areas. This will help with easy case identification and subsequent quarantine
  • Decongest prisons. Release those in prison who are “Awaiting Trial” or convicted for petty crimes

Dispel the Myths

Some of these myths include:

  • That COVID-19 virus cannot be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates – THAT’S A LIE
  • That the virus cannot affect the black race – TOTALLY FALSE (many Cameroonians are infected)
  • That spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kills the coronavirus – BIG LIE
  • That eating garlic helps to prevent infection – NOT TRUE AT ALL
  • That coronavirus affects older people and not younger people – the virus DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. It affects even new-born babies. etc

How you can help

  • You can join the Corona Virus Taskforce in Cameroon. Use this link
  • Signup for the Weekly Webinar on the pandemic in Cameroon. Register here
  • Share this information with family, friends and colleagues
  • Stay at home as much as possible and call the hotline if you or a family member develops symptoms (fever, cough, running nose, etc)

About the Corona Virus Taskforce Cameroon

The Taskforce was established to mobilize health experts, clinicians, policymakers, students and community leaders to quickly address the growing challenges the country faces in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and to advice on strategies to mitigate its effects on the most vulnerable populations such as those internally displaced from ongoing conflicts. Its overall goal is to minimize the total mortality as a result of this pandemic.

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Other areas for subsequent Bulletins

  • Types of quarantine
  • Active Surveillance Pilot Project