Bamoun King

Cameroon: Coping With The Third Wave Of Covid-19

By Leocadia Bongben

Thousands gathered; to hell with masks, there were hugs, hand shakes, no social distance; they were mourning.

It was the burial of the Sultan, Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya, the king of the Bomoun people of West region of Cameroon, and the enthronement of Nfonrifoum Mbombo Njoya Mouhamed Nabil, the 20th King.  

“It is an ideal avenue for the spread of covid-19 especially with the third wave and the Delta variant, which experts say spreads as fast as it kills”, Prof. Yap Boum II , Epidemiologist, lamented.

Cameroon is still experiencing its third wave of Covid-19.

Some African countries experienced the third wave of covid-19 earlier than others, amongst them, South Africa with the Delta variant.

South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Ethiopia account for over 60% of the continent’s caseload, the African Centre For Disease Control Director, John Nkengasong stated.

The World Health Organization, WHO, said the third wave, “could be 60% more contagious. Greater contagiousness means more cases, more hospitalizations, and a greater risk of overwhelming health systems. Some evidence also suggests that the Delta variant which is responsible for the third wave, is linked to more severe and longer-lasting cases”.

In Cameroon Health Minister Manaouda Malachie maintained that the country did not register any case for about three months before the surge in the new cases with the Delta variant at the origin.

“Malachie on national television maintained that genomic surveillance put in place detected out of 745 samples of positive cases analyzed, 43 were the English variant cases, 17 South African variant cases and 14 Indian Delta variant cases circulating in Cameroon.

“In October 2020, there were three variants in Cameroon, then in December eight, and there was a particular variant found in travelers that came from Central Africa. We learnt that the second wave of Covid-19 was caused by the South African strand, Prof. Wilfred Mbacham, Virologist said.

A report from the Cameroon Health Emergency Operations Centre indicate that the country recorded its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on 06 March 2020, the situation evolved rapidly and the first wave occurred around the period from 18 May to 05 July 2020, and the second wave appeared during the period from 22 February to 16 May 2021. Then the country observed a period of calm from June 2021.

“Since August 9, 2021 we have observed a rise in the number of cases. It is important to note the heterogeneity in the progression of cases with the central and coastal regions leading the way as expected. On the other hand, in this wave, regions such as the North West and the West have a much higher number of cases than in the last waves. A striking fact of this 3rd wave is the increase in the proportion of deaths, which has led us to intensify the death audits”, Belinga said.

According to Prof. Yap Boum, Epidemiologist, “This third wave, seems to be the worse, with the Delta variant.

Presently, 90 percent of the cases in the country are caused by the Delta variant that is highly transmissible, which means it may touch a large proportion of people who are vulnerable”.

Prof. Yap Boum II, Epidemiologist, Doctors Without Borders

To him, there is a difference between the first, second and third waves of Covid-19 in Cameroon.

“During the first wave, we didn’t know what was happening, we had very strict measures; the second wave was a bit more relaxed compared to the first with much more cases and deaths, with the peak around March and April”.

“In this third wave, we have even young people dying of Covid-19, kids of three months, three years and young adults. This was rare in the first and second waves, so there is need to readjust the measures we are taking”, Boum said.

The fact is that when you have ten persons hospitalized, nine out of the ten have not been vaccinated. 90 percent of the people dying are those who are not vaccinated, Yap stressed.

He warned that having taken a jab and still being hospitalized can happen for many reasons: such cases may have other conditions. We now know that people with HIV are immune depressed and responding less. So, the need for vaccine boasters.

The challenge with the third wave of Covid-19, is how to get the population to respect barrier measures, wear masks, wash hands regularly, and get vaccinated.

So far, Cameroon has confirmed 98,402 cases since the first case was declared in 2020 till date. The cases, and deaths correspond to the three waves of Covid-19.

Only 142,778(1.0%) Cameroonians are fully vaccinated and 397,607 have taken the first dose as of October 11.

Experts agree that were Cameroon to have more hospitalizations, the hospitals would be overwhelmed with the low level of vaccination.

Mbacham, maintains that “those who have taken just a shot of a two doses of the vaccines are as vulnerable as those who have not had a jab”.

What preventive measures for third wave?

Cameroon Health Emergency Operation Centre, is in charge of monitoring and taking record of the covid situation in the country on a daily basis.

Cameroon Emergency Operations Centre

Dr Belinga of the Emergency Health Emergency Operations Centre maintained that “At land, sea and air entry points, passengers are systematically screened and tested whether or not they have a negative test less than 72 hours old, as required by the regulations in force in Cameroon.

In the community, contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 are identified and followed up over a period of 14 days to look for the early appearance of signs of the disease.

Finally, there is surveillance in health facilities through triage systems set up at the entrance to the health facilities, active research in consultation registers and systematic screening of suspected cases, Belinga added.

Surveillance is part of a strategy based on awareness-raising and case detection. Vaccination is offered to people who test negative, while positive cases are managed.

In the run-up to the TotalEnergies 2021 African Cup of Nations football tournament, surveillance will be stepped up, particularly with “new Covid-19 exposure notification tools that will enable people who have been in contact with a positive case to receive notification leading to screening and then vaccination or treatment depending on the result”,Belinga revealed.

The third vaccination campaign is set from November 17-21 postponed from October 27-30 would cost the state a whooping FCFA 928 million to scale up vaccination.

Meanwhile, Cameroon can count on the support of its partners in coping with the third wave. Cameroon’s partners, the EU and Germany donated equipment for the management and protection of severe cases. 

Germany donated 924,000 surgical masks worth more than 165 million and the EU, 50 oxygen concentrators, 50,000 surgical masks, 03 ventilators with accessories, 3,040 protective glasses and 3,120 visors.

The EU has in the past, constructed waste treatment areas in 18 health facilities in five regions, in addition to the commissioning of a borehole.

Saudi Arabia donated, 25,000 sterilized blouses, 125,000non sterilized, 2.302000 surgical masks to help government to meet up with increasing cases of Covid=19 from the delta variant.

Cameroon has got her very first sequencing device for monitoring the circulation of Covid-19 variants through CEMAC. The African Development Bank, ADB, financed to the tune of FCFA 468,501,777 a subregional response plan that provided biomedical equipment, protection kits, medical ambulance, the ministry of health disclosed.

A group of Cameroonian pathogen-genomics are following up the evolution  of the virus, to understand the virulence in collaboration with Redeemers University in Nigeria, Mbacham disclosed. 

Prof. Mbacham Wilfred, Virologist

Africa and Cameroon have not had the massive deaths predicted and according to Mbacham, “It could be that our foods are contributing besides the washing of hands, social distancing”.

In the past, viral infections have gone through four waves before they completely get out of the community. With many passages of the virus through many people and mutating, it will slowly tend towards a less virulent strand like the common colds, Mbacham concluded.

This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l’Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab”