Covid-19: Dr Nick Ngwanyam tells government act now or face “national catastrophe”

Dr Nick Ngwanyam, MD. has told Mimi Mefo Info, Cameroon does not have what it takes to fight coronavirus, but says steps could be taken to avoid a national catastrophe as the disease spreads.

The promoter of St Louis UNIV. Institute of Health Social Entrepreneur says Cameroon failed to do the right thing from the beginning, prioritised what he called political meetings rather than taking a  scientific medical and epidemiological approach.

142 people are now infected with the deadly coronavirus in Cameroon and Dr Nick Ngwanyam believes the figures will continue to increase.

Dr Nick Ngwanyam of the St. Louis institute adds that it is either government takes concrete action now or the entire “nation lives to regret”. In an exclusive interview with MMI, the Doctor also shares some information on measures individuals can take at the personal level to stay safe.

Read the full interview below:

Question: On Covid-19: What is Cameroon’s vulnerability to the disease?

Answer: This is a pandemic that all nations must go through. You need only one case to bring the virus to your shores and you as good as dead. The countries that quickly shut their borders and put everyone that arrived in properly managed quarantine would and have done well. In Cameroon, we are a struggling economy with a health care system leaving much to be desired and functioning under the acceptable baseline. That is why our politicians and the rich get treated abroad. We produce nothing. Our industrial fabric is limping. We all suffer from indiscipline and irresponsibility.  Our surname is dirt.  We are dead but living PEOPLE. Walking corpses that must realise we are in deep shit. We must quickly rise up to the challenge or we shall be buried in mass graves.

Question: Can a patient detect symptoms?

Answer:  Yes. In the first couple of days, there is nothing to feel or notice. Then there is like a cold setting in with a dry cough and irritation nose and throat. Then there is fever and malaise with body pains. There could be vomiting and diarrhoea. When the virus descends Into the lungs causing pneumonia and severe generalised alveolitis, patients notice difficulties breathing and suffer from acute shortness of breath. They gasp for air.

Question:  What time should some seek medical advice?

Answer:  While we are saying that it starts like a common cold, about 80 per cent would overcome it staying at home and resting eating relaxing and taking fluids. When pneumonia sets in, these are those that need hospital care. Call for medical help. The hospital staff carry on from there with supportive management needing to be put on a ventilator when need is and if these are available along with qualified staff.

 Question: What is likely to happen in the coming days? Do you see the figures dropping of increasing?

Answer:  The figures will continue to increase then drop if we do the right thing now which is Shut Down. If we do not and if we keep on mixing and rubbing shoulders it shall continue to rise and kill all of us because of our stubbornness and foolishness. We play politics instead of doing what is right just and good. We think the virus respects our ranks positions and wealth. Our foolishness will bury all of us.

 Question:  What if they cannot get through to the emergency team?

Answer:  That is the one million dollar question. They just have to try to make it on their own to the emergency centres as we have been used to doing for ages. Old habits die hard.

Question:  Does Cameroon have what it takes to fight this? In terms of experts and kits.

Answer:  NO.

Question:  Can the people trust the hotlines?

Answer:  Hotlines work in countries where hotlines have been a way of life. Hotlines are not effective in Cameroon because our cities are not well planned and digging out people from the dungeons called cities can be very daunting. Also, we have issues of responsibility on the part of those supposed to respond. There is hardly fuel in the ambulances or service cars. Corruption has messed up our empathy.

Question:  We have reports of medical staff exposed and infected, what are the dangers?

Answer:  The medical staff attending to patients without enough training on self-protection are a danger to their families the public and the health system. It will be like a mechanic with oily hands trying to wash their hands in the same bowl of dirty water. The doctors and health workers in Italy and Austria each contaminated 100 persons making a bad situation worse. Here we think virus respect a white coat and a stethoscope or big titles. It DOES not. Our attitudes will kill us. We are below the bar.

Question:  The Health Minister is planning a trip to Douala with a team of experts to check and investigate those who escaped quarantine, what are your expectations? Can this help?

Answer:  This is no use and it is uncalled for. They failed to do the right thing from the beginning. His going up and down is not the solution. Taking the right decision s and acting on them judiciously will be the way forward.  Having political meetings is of no use. Having a scientific medical and epidemiological approach with follow-through is the solution not playing to the gallery.

Question: What advice will you give to Cameroonians, especially those in Anglophone regions?

Answer:  Stay at home. Stay safe. Prevention is better than cure. Follow advise from government and the WHO. Wash hands regularly with soap and water. Clean all surfaces and door handles with ‘Eau de Javel` or bleach in water. Clean taxis motorbikes with it. Soak exposed clothing in it and wash. Clean floors like in risky areas including hospitals toilets health centres with it. Increase social distancing. Stop visiting and sharing. Isolate as much as possible.

Finally, Dr Nick expatiated on why wearing masks can help fight Covid-19.

Hear him: “Wearing the face mask is a great idea to enhance the fight against the virus and other infectious diseases of the upper respiratory tract. I wear the mask to protect you and my loved ones. You wear the mask to protect me and the environment. The mask kind of filters the air we breathe out and also holds the particles of saliva and secretions from our mouths and noses as we speak, cough and sneeze. This way we help to stop spread the germs/ virus around and thus limiting the contagious spread of the deadly disease to our families and humanity. You can buy a ready-made mask. Yet there are ways for us to make masks from whatever, provided it covers our noses and mouths especially as we speak, scream, sing, cough and sneeze. We should of course still be able to breathe with them on so they must be of fabric. Use handkerchief, ‘head ties’, Old wrappers, use the cups from breast wears. Some people have demonstrated how we can use clean underwear ( pants). Our own tailors can start using whatever clean clothes they have to make masks be they new or old. Use rubber bands or strings to fix whatever tissue you have around your ears making sure your mouth and nose are covered. The Muslims have things they wear traditionally to cover their mouths and noses. Wear these masks especially if you are sick of any cold or catarrh and above all when you leave your house and go out into public places. Wash these and dry them for further use. Use soap and water”.

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