COVID-19: Cameroon Says It Is Compulsory To Wear Face Mask

After four months of sensitization on the necessity of wearing face masks to check the spread of COVID-19, Cameroonians must henceforth wear the face masks or face penalties.  The Prime Minister,  Dr Dion Ngute, announced the decision on Thursday during a COVID-19 inter-ministerial evaluation meeting held in the Star Building – Prime Minister’s Office.

The prime minister reminded participants at the meeting that the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was not over yet and as such, a general campaign of sensitization and repression against those who refused to wear face masks in public places must continue.

Dion Ngute outlined a roadmap for the ministries concerned with the fight against COVID-19 namely, information and sensitization by the Ministry of Communication, sensitization on conformity in the fabrication of artisanal masks to the norms specified by the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Technological Development and coercive measures by the Ministry of Decentralisation through the mayors, the Ministry of Territorial Administration, the Delegate General for National Security and the Secretary of State in-charge of the Gendarmerie.

The government decided on the obligatory wearing of face masks in public places against the coronavirus pandemic since April 13, 2020. However, after the lifting of the ban on activities in bars  and hotels after 8 p.m., most Cameroonians concluded that all the measures taken by government against the virus infection had been lifted.

Since then, the Cameroonian man-in-the-street has been behaving as if the COVID-19 pandemic is over, with fewer and fewer people wearing the face masks.

“How can you convince me that the COVID-19 is not yet over and that the wearing of face masks in public places is still necessary when we see the head of state himself (who comes on the national news on public television everyday to say the wearing of face masks is obligatory), not wearing the mask?” asked a taxi driver who was challenged by HumAngle on Friday morning for not wearing a face mask.

“Our leaders must learn to teach by example. We have never seen the head of state wearing a face mask so this goes to consolidate speculations in the markets and even social media that the coronavirus is a white man thing that cannot affect black people because their blood is strong,” added an okada (motorbike) rider.

Before the decision to punish those found not wearing face masks in public  was announced, the police and gendarmes had been having a feast extorting money from citizens who do not wear face masks in public places.

It is an open secret in most towns that the penalty for not wearing a face mask is 6,000 (12 dollars) and police and gendarmes have been executing this illegal imposition with a vengeance.

Last month, over 500 motorbikes were impounded in Tiko, Fako Division of the Southwest Region because their riders were accused of not wearing face masks or not obliging their passengers to wear face masks. Only riders who paid a penalty of 2,000 FCFA ( four dollars) were given back their bikes.

By Thursday, Cameroon had recorded 18,118 positive cases of COVID-19. While 16,538 patients have been successfully treated, 403 have died.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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