Cameroon: Panic Grips Bamenda as Coronavirus Sweeps through Catholic Mission School

“This child was previously not exposed to Coronavirus; she fell sick in school and was taken to the hospital for treatment. That is where the child seems to have contracted the deadly virus and brought it back to school”. These are the words of the Archbishop of Bamenda, His Grace Andrew Nkea, to Timescape as he recounts the incursions of the deadly Coronavirus into Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Bamenda.  

Rumour had run wild in Bamenda, one of the chief cities of the once Independent State of Southern Cameroons that the Catholic Mission had covertly decided to release students of the Sacred Heart College, Mankon to take experimental vaccines against Coronavirus at Azam Hotel, a structure retained as treatment centre where positive cases are quarantined and attended to.

The rumour sparked fears and sent denizens, particularly parents and guardians whose children are in the school into a state of hysteria. They feared that their children were about to be used as guinea pigs for vaccines, trials which have reportedly left vexing and irreversible consequences on some people elsewhere, when it was not outright death.

In a telephone conversation with Timescape, Archbishop Nkea made clear no child from any of the Catholic Mission schools in his Ecclesiastical Province were being used for any vaccine tests. He described the rumour as “unfounded and unfortunate talks that are simply meant to cause panic and pain for no reason”.

He revealed that once the female student from Lourdes was found to be Coronavirus positive, “We invited the testing team to come test all the students on campus of the deadly Coronavirus and in the exercise, we found out that six (6) students in total tested positive, three (3) Reverend Sisters also tested positive, along with one (1) Reverend Father. All of them have been isolated and taken to the treatment centre for attention”.

The Archbishop also noted that, “As soon as we were done with the testing, we immediately called the parents of the infected students and informed them. If you are a parent or guardian of a student at Lourdes and you have not been contacted, then there is nothing to worry about. We have also ensured that the school environment is thoroughly disinfected to avert further infections by any means”.

The students of Sacred Heart College, the Man of God added, were also fully tested and the environment there taken care of as well in efforts to contain the spread of the virus among students of the two institutions since there are always a lot of interactions among them.

According to some authorities of the Bamenda Regional Hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, the Coronavirus pandemic “is spreading very rapidly not only in Bamenda, but all over Cameroon because the government decided to call off containment measures too quickly for economic reasons, while sacrificing the heath of the people”.

The Medical Doctor warned that “If the people do not decide to become personally disciplined for their own sake and the sake of their family members, then we are heading towards  a catastrophe worse than the ongoing armed conflict in the English-speaking regions of the country”.

Despite receiving over 113 billion CFA F (about USD194 million) from the Bretton Woods institution to fight the spread of Coronavirus, the Cameroon government is yet to take measures that can check its spread, as well as provide adequate protection gear to health practitioners in the frontline against the deadly virus.