Three weeks have gone past since the first case of Coronavirus was detected in Cameroon. The number of doubting Thomases has since dropped systematically considering the steady rise in the number of victims. Who could imagine at the beginning of March when the first two cases were announced, that one could be talking now in terms of hundreds? In any case, the catastrophe is already there. As one could have imagined, the atmosphere is heavily charged with uncertainty, unpredictability, and total confusion. But what is clear and this is already being done, is that, all that it takes to fight a pandemic like this one must be put in place. The advantage with Cameroon, if one could really talk of an advantage in such circumstances, is that the country is taking the queue after many others have done so. This, in the real sense of the word means that we have the propensity to avoid the errors committed by those who had it before us. How far we have gone in this process of error avoidance is another issue.
The decision by government to launch a mass screening campaign beginning at the port city of Douala surely tells of the determination to take the COVID-19 fight to a higher level. The multiplicity of measures already put in place by government is a reflection of the gravity of the problem. This, of course couldn’t have been otherwise. We are talking health here and about a veritable purveyor of the country’s economy. As the saying goes, a healthy population makes for a healthy nation. If, as someone puts it on social media, « discipline saved China, indiscipline drowned Europe and arrogance is killing America », then Cameroon would have no explanation to allow ignorance kill its population. Even though the number of cases keep rising at almost geometric rate, many continue to live without any scare. Wash your hands at all moments they say but many wouldn’t do that; do not shake hands or hug in the name of greetings, many have remained adamant; signal health officials once you suspect symptoms of COVOD-19, some will rather die with it and worse of all, several cases have been reported of people arriving the country and disappearing into thin air after refusing to the screened at the points of entry. Overloading continues on bikes and bars and other drinking spots continue to operate surreptitiously after 6pm.
As the mass screening exercise begins in Douala, the pious hope is that the population should take it as a matter of personal conscience. It is rather surprising and even disturbing that people would want to be forced to understand that it is not good to be attacked by a deadly disease like COVID-19. How shameful can it be to see security men arresting people and locking them up for insisting to do things that will invite sickness on them. People turn to be more afraid of law enforcement officers than the disease itself. Many behave like little children who are more afraid of a medical staff dressed in apron than the sickness in them. Maybe, the team to comb the homes of people in Douala, streets and other public places to undertake the screening exercise will need to move along with security men to force those who refuse to respect their consciences to do so at least for the sake of the rest of the population.