Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Cameroonians doubt existence of coronavirus

Lax authorities, inexperience, misappropriation of coronavirus funds contribute to lack of trust

Aurore Bonny   | 04.09.2021
Cameroonians doubt existence of coronavirus Photo: Aurore Bonny - Anadolu Agency

DOUALA, Cameroon

Many Cameroonians have expressed doubts about the existence of the coronavirus.

Cameroon did not play South Sudan in an African Basketball Championship game Aug. 25 in Rwanda because some players on the national team tested positive for the virus.

The central African country has also reported more than 80,000 cases and an excess of 1,300 deaths from the disease.

But many Cameroonians downplay the existence of the virus.

In Douala, the economic capital, Anadolu Agency observed the disrespect for barrier measures.

Masks, which are not compulsory, are rarely worn in the streets or in certain service areas outside multinational corporations.

Hand hygiene devices are almost non-existent in front of shops -- people gather and touch each other without any social distancing.

"Why are we going to respect all this? Is there a coronavirus in Cameroon? This disease is among white’s people, not us," said Francois Happi, a trader at the Carrefour Anatole market.

Happi does not believe in the virus because he has "never seen a person with COVID-19," he told Anadolu Agency.

He said if there were real victims, the media would report in detail by showing people with evidence as well as survivors.

"Nowadays, even people with HIV-AIDS, a disease that used to be considered shameful, go on TV and tell how they are resisting the disease. But since this pandemic, all we hear are figures and pompous statements," he said.

Happi never believed in the pandemic but others did at first and now doubt reports.

"I believed in it with all the precautionary measures that were taken in the country by the authorities and even the people. I had relatives who were ill but who naturally recovered thanks to traditional medicine. But then almost all the causes of death in hospitals were announced as coronavirus. Then the laxity was widespread, so we thought the disease was over," said Fabrice Galiga, a digital appliances wholesaler.

"The coronavirus is a fabricated story and a Western affair,” said handbag seller Jonathan Elame. "We can’t be fooled. Besides, how are we going to protect ourselves if even the authorities don't protect themselves? Our leaders invite us to respect the barrier measures while they organize group meetings and gatherings where most people do not protect themselves.”

A financial ploy and state example

The sentiment was echoed by Marius Tchatchouang, a clothing consultant who questioned scandals surrounding funds received by the government to fight the pandemic.

A summary of an audit of the Audit Chamber of the Supreme Court on the management of the National Solidarity Fund to fight the coronavirus in June revealed shortcomings in the management of the multimillion-dollar fund by the health, research and finance ministries.

"They know that there is no coronavirus in our country. I think they create numbers, deaths and bury people as victims of coronavirus just to make us believe in the existence of the disease and receive money from donors," said Tchatchouang.

"This behavior is not a surprise in Cameroon. Taking advantage of everything to get money is a routine in our country, it is not surprising anymore. It has become so natural that it doesn't bother anyone anymore. That's why we don't trust the COVID-19 situation," Herve Tchokouani, a businessman, told Anadolu Agency.

For trader Romeo Djeuga, the disease does not exist because "several state authorities have not taken the vaccine, let alone the health personnel in several hospitals.”

In several bank branches in the city, Anadolu Agency noticed the absence of protection against the coronavirus by employees and customers.

'Nothing is respected'

On condition of anonymity and fearing exposure to competition, two female tellers who were in one of the banks admitted that they are exposed to the virus because of the money they handle daily.

They admitted to a lack of vigilance.

"At the beginning of the pandemic, our boss was adamant about not accepting clients who were not wearing masks," one said. "But over time he lowered the requirements. We lose if we send a client away who wants to make a big transaction because he doesn't have a mask or because he hasn't washed his hands," the other added.

"In Cameroon, nothing is respected. People's lifestyles have not changed and the authorities are not demanding. People multiply in the means of transport without wearing masks and no one reprimands them. If this disease really existed in our country, we would have more deaths than those reported because of the way we live," according to logistician Nina Adama.

Health Minister Manaouda Malchie is calling for vigilance. With more than 400,000 doses of vaccines administered to a population of more than 25 million, he said that vaccination is "the safest way to mitigate the effects of a third wave that has become inevitable.”

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