March 6, marked the turning point for Cameroonians this year. The first case of the COVID-19 had just been declared on Cameroonian soil, months after the pandemic had claimed several lives in China and other parts of the world.
A pandemic that seemed alien to Cameroonians was at their door steps and need urgent measures to shut shop and prevent it spread across the country. To that effect, the government proceeded with several measures though the virus continued to spread to level it is today.
Even before the first case of the COVID-19 was announced in Cameroon, authorities had started taking measures to contain any eventual outbreak and spread of the virus. The Yaounde Central Hospital and the Centre Pasteur were equipped to handle any eventual case while measures were also beefed up at the various ports of entry with the thorough screening of passengers entering Cameroon.
However, with the threat of the pandemic more evident, government step up to the plate by shutting borders on March 17 as one of several measures taken to contain the spread of the virus. Schools were also shut down, houses of worship drinking and other leisure spots equally felt the effects as government encouraged citizens to stay home and avoid over crowded places.
After the shutting of borders, hundreds of passengers who arrived Cameroon that day were quarantined in hotels and other facilities for two weeks at government’s expenses. Thorough screening was carried out as those tested positive were taken for treatment while those who returned negative results returned home after two weeks.
Reinforcement of Response strategy
As the number of COVID-19 cases climbed up the curve, the burden on health workers and health facilities increased and appropriate measures had to be taken. The government moved to create specialized centres in Douala, Yaounde, Bafoussam and other parts of the country to help reduce the burden on other health facilities.
A massive screening campaign was equally organized in Douala. According to the Minister of Public Health, Dr Malachie Manaouda, the response strategy has been decentralized for to enable all the ten regions to independently manage their cases. In Yaounde, the epicenter of the pandemic, several testing points have been created to enable health workers detect cases early in order to equally manage them early.
The Head of State’s Touch
The government had mobilised on all fronts to prevent the spread at various levels with firm instructions from the Head of State. Paul Biya ordered the creation of a special solidarity fund which kicked off with FCFA 1 billion to support the fight against the pandemic. Cameroonians immediately adhered to the initiative and have been contributing to the fund in cash and in kind. The latest figures published by the Ministry of Public Health last week showed the solidarity fund has received over FCFA 1.7 billion. The Head of State has since gone on to make several donations to various sectors of national life affected by the pandemic. All the 360 sub divisions have received anti-COVID-19 kits donated by the Head of State, schools and other institutions of learning, religious institutions have equally benefitted from the Head of State’s largesse. Paul Biya in an address to the nation on May 19 praised the efforts and commitment of health workers who are on the frontline in the fight against the pandemic. He stressed the wearing of face masks in public places is obligatory till further notice.
100 days after, what way forward?
Looking back at the past 100 days in Cameroon’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Public Health, Dr Malachie Manaouda expressed satisfaction at the work done so far by health workers to ensure Cameroon beats the pandemic.
“Successes recorded were possible thanks to the competence, professionalism and determination of teams mobilized to fight against the pandemic. On the frontline were health workers who gave beyond their strengths to save lives, they kept their morales high despite the obstacles. From sensitization to management of patients through screening as well as psychological follow-up, they have been exemplary,” Dr Malachie Manaouda raved about the health workers.
He said the best way the population can pay homage to these health workers is by respecting the various preventive measures put in place by the government.
Going forward, the Minister of Public Health has stressed the reinforcement of the of the 3T strategy-Track, Treat and Test which he says is very effective in determining early cases and limiting the number of COVID-19-related deaths as Cameroon looks to flatten the curve of the pandemic.