Cameroon: Bamenda denizens still to adapt to social distancing as measure to fight Coronavirus

Some residents in Bamenda,North West Region of Cameroon are still to come to grasp with the measures put in place…

Some residents in Bamenda,North West Region of Cameroon are still to come to grasp with the measures put in place by the government to curb the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.

The country’s borders have remained closed since March 17 while schools have equally been shut down and some public places forced to close at 6pm and market schedules readjusted as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

“These are difficult but necessary measures to ensure the protection of each and every one and to limit the spread of (the COVID-19),” Cameroon’s Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute said while rolling out the 13 measure on March 17.

As predicted by the Prime Minister, some Cameroonians in the North West Region have seen these ‘necessary measures’ difficult to implement as some say their socio-economic status do not permit them to stay home.

Stanley Yuh(not real name), a businessman at the Bamenda main market says it has been strange to implement the social distancing given the nature of his business.

“How will I sell to my customers? I sell household items and there are some customers who need you to show them how an appliance works. We also have to exchange money so how do I stay away from them?,” Stanley asks.

He is however in favour of a complete lockdown as an effective measure to implement social distancing and fight curb the spread of the virus.

Like Stanley,  Suh Neba, a taxi driver in Bamenda expressed is still to come to terms with the social distancing measures.

To him, it is difficult to carry passengers in his vehicle while respecting the one metre distance prescribed by the government.

“How will passengers not come close to each other? Limiting the number of passengers will greatly affect my income,” Neba said, calling on government to provide more incentives to accompany these measures.

On her part, Rev Sister Appolonia Budzee, social distancing is a real challenge because of our cultural and family ties.

“We are living so many in our households, public transport – we are always so tight together in a limited space”. Imagine people traveling so tight for 6-7 hours,” she said.

Others say they don’t practice social distancing because it is still strange to them but are now ready to adapt in order to avoid being contaiminated.

“I don’t practice social distancing because we were not well educated about its importance but now that I am much informed, I will change my behavior towards it,”  said Nkengfack Divine Acheps, manager of M’Mouck cooperative credit union.

But that is not the case with Sylvie Njobati, a business woman who is strictly following the measure

“I have isolated myself at home in Yaounde as a form of vacation. I don’t go out and I have stocked my home with enough food and other needs. I am keen on responsible and optimal hygiene practices,” she said.

In the face of these doubts, authorities have been reassuring the population on the advantages of staying home or keeping a social distance in order to avoid the spread of the virus.

The Regional Delegate of Public Health for the North West Region Dr Kingsley Che Soh has been on the field to screen passengers and educate them on respecting the various measures.

“We must all respect the one-metre distance measure if we want to bar the way to COVID-19, we also have to respect all the prescribed hygiene measures and we will be safe,” Dr Soh said.

*Emmauella Maikem is a freelance journalist based in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon with special interests in gender, health, human rights and humanitarian reporting