Covid-2019: Public Health Minister unveils government’s response mechanism

Dr. Manaouda Malachie says government ” has taken appropriate measures to contain the Coronavirus . Speaking on the Magazine Program “Scene de Press” four days after two cases were confirmed , he told Cameroonians to be concerned , but not afraid.


We have two confirmed cases in Cameroon. Can we consider that they are isolated cases or Cameroonians have reason to worry?

We unfortunately have two confirmed cases of the Coronavirus which were confirmed since March 5, and are currently in Isolation. They are well taken care of at the Yaounde Central hospital. We don’t have a reason to fear, maybe we could be worried because we want to know what is happening. But if we consider that confirmed cases have gone over 100 ,000 and  over 3500 deaths , that means there are reasons to be afraid. But with regards to their Isolation, all I can  is that the government of the Republic has taken measures to contain the spread of the virus on the instructions of the Gead of State.

Can we say that these patients were rapidly screened?

We didn’t exceed 24 hours from the time we got information about these two cases. We were informed at 4pm, and at midnight we had the results. So we have to acknowledge the Cnameroon Centre Pasteur which screened them between 4-5 hours. We immediately quarantined them when the symptoms were reported . So the screening was carried out while they were in isolation. We were very reactive. We also deployed teams to rapidly trace their contacts, and see how many people were in contact with the patients. This permits us to say the control mechanism was effective and continues. I am very satisfied because they are doing a fantastic job on the field.

Cameroon is among the affected countries . What is being done to limit the spread of the disease?

We didn’t wait for a case to be confirmed in Cameroon before we take necessary measures. When there is an epidemic elsewhere, we prepare in case it reaches us. We have set up a response mechanism, and that’s what permitted us to not just limit the spread of the virus , but to know how to handle the two cases we have. In all airports and borders, screening is systematically done . At airports, we have two levels of screening. When you disembark the plane, your are screened twice. The First using a Thermoflash and the second is with the use of a Thermal Camera to confirm your temperature.

With regards to coordination , we have set up a multi-sectoral team consisting all administrations in charge of responding to this operation. They include the Ministries of Public Health, transport, defense, Livestock Fisheries and Animal Industries and the General Delegation for National Security. All these ministries are working in a  committee. Besides this committee , we have the Cameroon Health Emergency Operations Centre which did a lot of work to set up our response mechanism. When we had a joint press conference on Saturday March 6, the team of ministers visited the centre and we were able to see all the units at work. We  are at the level of control . and there is  a team for planning , intervention, communication, screening, and tracing contacts .

How ready are these personnel for surveillance/control and are they available in other parts of the country?

We should be proud of what is being done in our country. Since 2017, we began reflecting on a response mechanism in case of outbreaks. We trained Rapid Intervention teams we call the “Health BIR” in all the regions of Cameroon. We have 30 persons in each team in regions who are apt to rapidly intervene in cases of emergency . We have also trained trainers who go from region to region training others in order to increase the number. It’s not only about Douala and Yaounde but in the entire territory. We are thinking of sending more people to the regions to support those who are on the field.

Are there measures to monitor migrants ?

We have reinforced measures at borders . These measures concern some countries where the virus is circulating. Hence, when passengers  arrive, they will be required to fill forms , with details including phone numbers and lodging, in Cameroon. When we receive this information, we transmit it to the health district where the people are lodged . And within 14 days of incubation of the virus , the migrants will be obliged to submit to us . Our teams meet them everyday for all the 14 days. These are the measures we are implementing to prevent this disease.

What is being done to prevent this disease from spreading to schools?

We are not yet at that level . The information we have in our possession does not permit us to be alarmed to the point of closing down schools or universities. But I’m saying that we are in an epidemic and things are evolving minute by minute , hour by hour and day after day. So if on leaving this program this situation worsens, the government may need to take these measures. But for now we are not yet there.


Kathy Neba Sina

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