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Coronavirus: “Sacrificed”, at “a point of death”.

In the response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Cameroonian government thought it was doing well for the economy by easing on April 30, 2020, the measures on certain trades, including bars and other entertaining venues that concentrate a large population in the evening, beyond 6 pm.
Êtes-vous sûr?
However, the spread of a virus is neither during the day nor at night. Within the organization WILPF Cameroon, we thought already before April 30 that the first measures authorizing until 6 p.m. the activities of places with high human concentration, around an inebriating product such as alcohol should rather be reinforced, in the sense of tightening the confinement. This tightening should, in our opinion, extend to all activities that are not essential to life, such as leisure activities. Not so! Instead, we have seen a kind of slumber that is more like back-pedaling. To these authors, the “safe-conduct” given to pubs, nightclubs and other such places – and perhaps to death – seemed so important that it ranks first in the list of 19 new measures prescribed by the government.
However, the context has not changed. The current pandemic still raises fears of unprecedented devastation in Africa and in our country. We have so far been spared. But for how much longer? To appreciate the growing danger, one only has to look at the population’ loosening up in compliance with the barrier measures, far beyond even the bars. From now on, in the street or at the market, the wearing of protective masks is becoming rarer, when it is not reduced to a purely formal routine. Expressions such as “Corona is over. It’s all over! ».
The continuous reminders from health officials to comply with the other barrier measures that are still up to date do not change anything: can one really wear a mask or observe social distancing in a bar? Is the danger really away? Here is the testimony of a bar waitress whom we have named “Sacrifiée” for anonymity reasons and also because this young lady (who is currently fighting against the virus) and her story are only representative of what has been living and happening since the fateful evening of April 30, 2020, in many “streets of joy” transformed for some unwary people into ” death’s crossroads”.
My name is ” Sacrifiée “. I’m a barmaid. As an instruction, given to us by our bar manager, I wear a protective mask and a pair of gloves. I think I’m very protected; ooh no!
Today is Friday, May 1st, 2020. I’m serving a cold beer to my first customer, X. He has COVID-19, but doesn’t know it, and neither do I. A threesome comes in, then settles on a bar shelf. The square shelf is designed to provide seating for four. I walk up to them and invite them to observe the prescribed distance measures. They say, “How much space does your bar have to keep us within one meter of each other?! Seen from this angle, you will have barely 20 customers at a time”. I apologize and reconsider. I suddenly remember that for the past month and a half, I haven’t had a salary; no one ignores why.
I accept their order; wearing my protective gloves, I go to the sales counter. My colleague in this position grabs the paper containing the trio’s order and the money I hand to her. She puts the order at my disposal. I return to the trio table for service. No sooner have I finished than customer X calls me in for a second beer, “very cold”. I’m going to serve it to him while removing the previous bottle on which Coronavirus germs have been deposited. But no one knows that at that moment.
Another group of customers comes in. I serve as I go along. I clear and serve at the same time. I’m happy, because I’ll finally get my salary at the end of May, not counting a minimum tip of 2,500 CFA francs every night as before the restrictive measure ordering the closure of drinking places by 6 p.m. at the latest.
Unfortunately, what I still haven’t realized until this moment is that when I took the first bottle from customer X and although I was wearing a pair of gloves, I unconsciously carried the germs of the Covid-19 and unknowingly redistributed it as well to all the customers without knowing it. Without them knowing it, all of them are practically trading their lives, that of their different families and relatives, for the price of a beer!
After having been drinking for some, 2, 3, 4 and for others, lockers of alcoholic beverages, the comings and goings to the bar’s toilets begin. We are a “VIP” bar: the toilets have a door, a pot and a flush. But the tap has been out of order for 6 months. Everyone goes in and out. All the customers use the same wrist and the same flush.
I almost forgot: to drink, you have to get rid of the mask. The DJ plays lively music; the atmosphere is at its peak on this day of celebration of the International Labour Day. One after another, the customers get up and invade the small spaces between the tables to let their bodies go to the rhythm of the music. The clients are ecstatic and I can see them wiggling in the micro spaces between the shelves. “We’ve come a long way. Corocoro, it’s over! “, some say. An illusion of happiness regained.
It’s two o’clock in the morning, when the last customer leaves the bar. I can go home, with the joy of being able to share the fruits of a rich evening’s work. I’m over the moon, I’ve “tipped” myself 3,700 FCFA. The wait was long, but patience has paid off, I tell myself. But I don’t know what awaits me in the next few days, as well as many of those who were at the bar this festive evening of May 1, 2020. Will my 30,000 FCFA of salary cumulated with my ” little crumbs ” of tips manage to take care of me if I am infected and if I get sick? I just happen to think that I could be infected. Ahka!!! Why me?! That would be really bad luck! I still put on my mask and gloves. Besides, I have to live, feed my family, and treatment for COVID-19 is free. But as they say in Cameroon, “32 giga is equivalent to 500 giga”. The much-vaunted “free” may mean hundreds of thousands to pay, as several Coronavirus patients testify. Better to forget this hypothesis! I need to rest, because tomorrow I have another day of work ahead. God is watching over me and he’s watching over everyone who was at the bar tonight. And yet…
* Any similarities to a true story are purely coincidental. True to its principles of confidentiality and protection of its stakeholders, WILPF Cameroon does not expose the identity of survivors of trauma or illness.
Author: Armelle TSAFACK is Gender Specialist, Security Policy Officer Disarmament Coordinator at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF Cameroon)
Images : Nouther’Art

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