Cameroon’s health ministry revealed this weekend hundreds of hospital patients have fled medical facilities in the country fearing they may contract coronavirus while undergoing treatment for other ailments.
According to Cameroon Health Minister Manaouda Malachie, about 600 medical patients have escaped from hospitals in recent weeks and thousands of other people are estimated to be avoiding hospitals “for fear of becoming infected” with the Chinese coronavirus. The number of coronavirus cases in the central African nation has spiked recently, fueling people’s fear of contracting the virus. This phenomenon has been especially alarming because “not getting needed treatments for other health issues can put [people] at higher risk” for contracting coronavirus, Cameroon’s health officials say.
According to the report, the highest numbers of medical patients fleeing hospitals in Cameroon have been recorded in the capital, Yaounde; the western towns of Bamenda and Bafoussam; and Douala, the economic capital. Douala’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases has been increasing daily, according to Malachie.
At press time on Monday, Cameroon had officially counted 8,060 infections and 212 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.
Some Cameroonians have avoided visiting hospitals for non-coronavirus ailments because they fear they may be placed into quarantine as a “suspected case.” According to government policy, authorities are placing all suspected coronavirus cases under quarantine. Even if a person tests negative, he or she must still be “kept under observation for 14 days,” VOA reports.
“When you go with a little illness … [or for a] checkup, they will just take your temperature and if it goes above 37 [degrees Celsius, or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit], they just say that you are a suspect and they try to quarantine you,” Wilfred Awemo, a Cameroon banker, told VOA when explaining why he no longer trusts the country’s hospitals. Awemo said he chose to seek “traditional African treatment” for his malaria instead of going to a hospital out of this fear of being quarantined as a suspected coronavirus case.
Cameroon recorded its first case of coronavirus in March. According to the government, the country’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise because “many people either do not believe the coronavirus exists, or refuse going to hospitals for treatment until their symptoms worsen.”
In southern Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi have recently struggled with a similar problem, in which hundreds of coronavirus patients have fled government-regulated quarantine centers before their treatment was completed.