An evaluation of the preventive measures against Covid-19: Lock down, Physical distancing, Hand washing and masking in Cameroon
Cameroon recorded the first case of the Coronavirus on the 6th of March 2020 and thereafter, there was a geometric increase in the number of cases. By the 17th of March, Cameroon registered 10 Coronavirus cases and in response to this, the government announced 13 firm measures in an effort to curb the exponential increase of the Coronavirus cases in the country. Some of these included physical distancing of 1m, hand washing and the compulsory use of face mask was later added. Despite these measures, the number of cases has continued to increase and as of the 8th of May, Cameroon had 3323 cases and 139 deaths. This bulletin is aimed at evaluating the extent to which these measures are respected and how they are affecting daily living.
Partial lock down
In a bit to significantly reduce the spread of the virus, the government implemented a partial lockdown whereby schools ranging from primary to higher institutions of learning have been closed down. Students and pupils are being assisted to continue their education through e-learning and other media alternative. Television programs have been organized by the national radio and television (CRTV) station and some private TV stations to assist students especially those of examination classes. However, learning through the media is limited by the fact that only 61% of the population has accessed to electricity with constant blackouts and some students do not have any access to television or any other media that can allow them a chance for e-learning. In addition, trade between Cameroon and other countries has not been effective enough to contribute to the growth of the economy due to the closure of the land, air, and sea borders.
A critical look at this measure indicates that government has successfully implemented a complete lock down of all institutes of learning. Other places like markets where people visit on weekly and sometimes daily basis are still open. Some bars and restaurants still open and people still go about their daily activities especially those who depend on this form of business as their source of income.
Physical distancing entails individuals being at least 1 to 2 meters away from each other. To make this measure more effective, public gatherings were prohibited with the population at funerals, weddings, churches limited to a maximum of 50 persons. Some institutions have taken up the advantage of using of video conference platforms such as Zoom in organizing meetings.
However, physical distance is quite difficult to implement especially by people living under certain conditions like in prisons and community homes or shelters for internally displaced persons and markets. The President of the Republic Paul Biya passed a decree on the 15th of April to release some prisoners depending on the gravity of crime committed. This has been done as a means to decongest these prisons to improve physical distance and possibly limit the spread of the virus. However, this initiative is still not enough as only 331 in mates were released out of the thousands hosted in Cameroonian prisons. This measure has also been observed to fail in public places especially in markets where people are still crowded especially around the major cities of the country.
Hand washing has become one of the most popular hygienic measure as a lot of people have embraced it. It is common to see hand washing systems in front of homes, shops, offices, roadside, motor parks, markets, hospitals and in areas that attract crowds. Access to some offices or shops is granted only when a hand washing rite has been performed. However, the inconsistency of water supply by CAMWATER and the drastic increase in prices of hand sanitizers to an extent has negatively affected the implementation of this measure.
From April 13, the Minister of Public Health Dr. Manaouda Malachie urged all Cameroonians without exception to systematically wear face masks when going out of their homes as part of measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. This measure has been embraced by a good proportion of Cameroonians as most people are seen wearing masks as they go about their daily activities. Due to the rising cost of medical face mask, a number of people have resorted to home-made masks which are cheaper. The proper handling and wearing of face mask has been jeopardize as a hand full of the population do not understand the implication of wrong usage of face masks. A majority of the population are seen with the masks at the level of their mouths, chin, head and neck.
In conclusion, the preventive measures against covid-19 have gradually evolved over time and may continue to change as research continues to inform these measures. Some of these measures have limitations and have also affected daily living in different perspectives. There is the need for government and other stake holders to continue to educate the population through various media to enable them adhere to these measures. Additionally, essential services like water and electricity should be made constantly available and if possible prices of basic necessities could be subsidized to enhance staying at home and maintaining hygiene.