Coping with the coronavirus
By AJEWOLE ADEBAYO
Managing Director UCB
Coronavirus disease otherwise known as COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered virus called Coronavirus.
The disease started in China in December 2019, in the city of Wuhan. On the 30th of January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a total of 7818 confirmed cases worldwide, mostly in China, with 82 cases in 18 other countries. In less than two months thereafter, the total confirmed cases have risen to about 3 million and spread to over 200 countries in the world, with increasing rates of infections and deaths. It was so geographically widespread to the extent that WHO declared it a Global Pandemic on March 11, 2020.
The virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread from people to person through direct contact with infected hands or parts of the body. There is therefore the need for people to be well informed about the disease.
Most people infected with the virus experience mild to moderate illness and recover without any special treatment or hospitalization. However, older people, and those with underlying medical problems such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity etc are more likely to develop serious illness.
Common symptoms include fever, dry cough and tiredness while less common ones are aches and pains, sore throat, chills and loss of taste and smell.
Serious symptoms include shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the chest, and loss of speech or movement.
Generally, it takes 2-14 days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show.
Prevention, they say is better than cure. Various preventive measures are advised by Public Health Authorities. They include:
Avoidance of crowds, meetings, rallies, ceremonies and parties.
Regular washing of hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based sanitizer
Maintain Social or physical distancing of 1-2 meters from others.
Avoid touching of eyes, noses or mouth
Avoid shaking hands and kissing
Wear face or surgical mask
Cover nose or mouth with bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze
People with mild to moderate symptoms who are otherwise healthy are advised to manage their symptoms at home, while those with serious symptoms are to seek immediate medical attention, but to call in advance.
COVID-19 IN CAMEROON
The index case in Cameroon was announced on the 6th of March, 2020 by the minister of Public Health, Dr Malachie Manaouda. It was an imported case from France. From then on, any confirmed case(s) was/were referred to and managed at designated isolation centers.
The first major measure by the Government was the closure of all land, air and sea borders in and out of the country with effect from March 18, 2020.
There was also a ban on public burials, weddings and religious gatherings of more than 50 persons in order to wage war against the invisible enemy.
Schools were closed, and a total ban was placed on night clubs activities.
Works in bars and restaurants were also restricted to between 6am and 6pm and the population was enjoined to strictly observe all hygiene measures recommended by the WHO etc.
Despite the above measures, confirmed cases rose to over 2000 within two months.
Industries, associations, groups and companies all participated in awareness campaigns to inform the public about the disease, its symptoms and the preventive measures.
On April 30, 2020, following a study carried out by the Government, some flexibility and support measures were introduced to reduce the economic and social hardship being felt in several sectors of the country.
Bars, restaurants and leisure spots were allowed to open after 6 pm, but with obligation for customers and users to respect the wearing of face masks and social distancing.
There was the postponement of the deadline in filing statistics and taxes declarations (DSF) without penalties, and a host of others.
The government further stressed the need for the entire populace to continue to observe all preventive measures aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus.
RESPONSE IN UCB
The response to the news of COVID-19 was very prompt in UCB. Despite the fact that the index case in the country was announced in March, 2020, UCB started with the collection and processing of information relating to coronavirus much more earlier. The design and validation of messages to be sent to staff in order to prevent infection were carried out in February, 2020.
This was later followed by aggressive internal communication; diffusion to everybody via sms, mails on hygiene and safety measures to be observed,
Establishments of water points for hand washing with soap.
Checking and refilling of hand sanitizing gel dispensers daily.
Provision of foot baths of chlorine solution for disinfection of shoe soles at the entrance to the company and other areas.
General step-up in sanitation and disinfection practices
Temperance check/control of personnel in and out of the company and its distribution centres.
In addition to the above, some staff was placed on annual leave to reduce workforce density, promote confinement and limit the risk of the spread of virus. Pregnant women and people who are obese were also confined at their homes while all academic and professional internships were suspended.
There was also the introduction of working from home for the managers through the organization and implementation of telework.
Furthermore, UCB issued communiqué(s) to its stakeholders; distributors, retailers, suppliers and consumers about the disease and its prevention, and the steps to take if an infection is suspected. TV spots in different local languages were broadcast to raise awareness outside the company in order to enable all Cameroonian access information in the language they understand.
Radios and banners were also used as means of communication to the public. The company (UCB) has since embarked on the distribution of drinking water in neighborhood for the benefit of the people. Also in conjunction with Kadji Group, through the foundation Fu’a Toula Kadji Defosso Foundation, para-medical facilities such as artificial respirators, oxygen concentrators, protective helmets etc have been provided to various hospitals.
The world is going through an unparalled global response to a disease that no one knows when it will end. More than ever before, social contact with loved ones, co-workers, business and partners etc through the phone or internet has become the norm. The business, social and economic damage till date is enormous and not sustainable.
As at 30/04/2020, about four million (4,000,000) cases have been confirmed globally and the death rate was approximately 6.5 %. More than 150 different drugs (antiviral drugs or drugs that can calm the immune system) are being researched around the world. Multiple research centers are attempting to use survivor’s blood as a treatment and sustainable vaccines are also being developed according to WHO.
The “exit strategy”, i.e. a way of lifting the restrictions and getting back to normal daily life remains a huge scientific and societal challenge which only time can tell.