The spokesperson for Gbon’s Pilot Committee for the Follow-up of the Fight Against the novel coronavirus pandemic, popularly known by its French acronym (COPIL) has said he regrets the stigmatisation which many patients affected by the COVID -19 suffer in the country.

Dr Guy Patrick Obiang Ndong who was speaking during the 56th coronavirus press conference in Libreville, on Saturday, said that the illness was neither a punishment nor affliction which patients must be ashamed of.

“The coronavirus is not a shameful disease, neither a curse nor divine punishment, nor a bad omen thrown at someone, nor a nocturnal gunshot at anybody,” the COPIL spokesperson said.

Ndong said that “COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a virus called Sars-cov 2 which is transmitted by respiratory droplets and saliva emitted by an affected person.”

He added: “this is a well-known means of transmission of the virus with very simple ways of protection which include the obligatory wearing of a protective face mask and the constant washing of hands with soap or hydro-alcoholic gel.

“A very large number of our compatriots hide in their houses because of fear, in fact because of the shame of being subjected to the COVID-19 test. This phenomenon is linked to the stigmatisation of persons contaminated by the virus on the one hand, and the denial of the disease on the other hand causing people to rather resort to traditional/spiritual treatment. This results in late intervention by sanitary structures thus aggravating the illness.”

As of Saturday, there were 1,934 COVID-19 cases in Gabon, with 459 successfully treated and discharged from hospital and 12 patients dead, Ndong said.

Health authorities in the country have been expressing fear that due to the incredulity and belief patterns of certain individuals, the efforts so far put in place by the government might be compromised.

A lot of irrationality is attached to the perception of the COVID -19 pandemic to the extent that many patients are subjected to stigmatisation even within their own families, the Pilot Committee noted.

A new rapid testing facility called Prof. Daniel Gahouma Laboratory was officially inaugurated on Monday in the capital, Libreville, and the COPIL spokesperson has called on the population to massively report to testing centres to be tested to enable those who test positive to be treated.

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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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