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This is President Paul Biya’s full speech of May 19th 2020:

Cameroonians, Cameroonians,
My dear compatriots,
I don’t usually speak to you on the eve of our National Day. It is traditionally an opportunity to celebrate, in joy, our national unity as well as the values ​​of our Republic and our democracy.

Today, the context is different. Like most countries in the world, Cameroon is reached by COVID-19. Our health system is mobilized to fight this serious disease. Various measures, announced by the Prime Minister, have been taken to curb the spread. It is imperative that the instructions that have been given (wearing masks, physical distance, frequent hand washing) are scrupulously observed. The health of each and everyone is at stake.

Under these conditions, it was not possible that the festivities that mark our National Day be maintained, because of the gatherings that this implies. It was obviously not with a happy heart that I had to make this decision. But my main concern being the protection of the health of my compatriots, there was no hesitation possible.

Most of you have understood that faced with the sneaky danger posed by COVID-19, it was necessary to put aside political quarrels and present a common front. Some political leaders who do not belong to the government majority have expressed themselves in this direction. I thank them.

We also had the satisfaction of receiving help and encouragement from friendly countries, international organizations, leaders of national and foreign companies, as well as various personalities such as Mr. Jack MA of the Alibaba foundation. I want to thank them here on your behalf.

My dear compatriots,
The first thing I would like to say to you today is not to panic, and not to believe false information conveyed by social networks in particular. The challenge is certainly great, but we are capable of meeting it together as we have done in many other circumstances.

I also want you to know that the Government, under my leadership, is doing everything possible to get us out of this serious health crisis.

As I said, protective measures have already been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our territory.

Despite this, the number of people infected is increasing day by day, providing proof that the fight against this pandemic is complex and difficult. I therefore invite each of you to get involved personally. It is essential that the measures that have been indicated are absolutely respected by each of us. This is one of the conditions for the victory that we all want to achieve against this virus.

I particularly invite all political leaders, all men of religion, all opinion leaders, all leaders of associations, all traditional leaders and all constituted bodies to continue to invest themselves fully in this fight against COVID-19. Of course, all this within the framework set by the Government and in compliance with the laws and regulations of the Republic.

My dear compatriots,
Without further ado, I would like to join the pain of the families who have lost their loved ones as a result of this terrible disease. I extend my encouragement to the patients still hospitalized in our health facilities and wish them a speedy recovery. I also ask people who test positive to scrupulously respect the confinement rules.

I would also like to salute the extreme courage of the Cameroonian medical profession and those who assist it. With our means, they do their utmost to treat infected people. Indeed, they do not give up in the face of the seriousness of the COVID-19 infection. The Nation, through my voice, congratulates them and encourages them to persevere on this path.

As you know, since the appearance of this pandemic in our country, in addition to the protection measures of which I have already spoken, a Special National Solidarity Fund for the Fight against the Coronavirus has been set up. I have taken measures so that, within the limits of our present means, it is supplied, initially, up to a billion CFA francs. Depending on changing needs on the ground, new resources could be brought in.

It is for me the place to congratulate the fellow citizens who have already made contributions. I invite those who can, to do the same. National solidarity demands it.

In the fight that is ours today, the Government will work to continue the fight against any instrumentalization or political, economic or social exploitation of this tragedy.

My dear compatriots,
I would now like to draw your attention to the economic consequences of this health crisis.

Today we are faced with new challenges linked to the sharp fall in stock markets, the fall in commodity prices and an unexpected sharp slowdown in our trade. The Coronavirus pandemic therefore has a negative impact on the world economy as well as on our own.

Of course, we will have to find our way back to growth later, while ensuring that, during this period of uncertainty and difficulty, jobs are preserved as much as possible.

I invite the Government to continue to mobilize as it has done since the start of this health crisis. In an unprecedented social context, he will in particular have to be ingenious and inventive in order to maintain our financial balance, contain the rate of inflation, ensure the continuity of public service, particularly in the education sector, and regulate economic activity so as to safeguard social stability and peace.

In terms of health, despite the progression of cases detected positive for Coronavirus, the situation remains manageable. We will therefore spare no effort to limit the spread of the virus and reduce the mortality rate caused by this pandemic.

The global health crisis due to Coronavirus will undoubtedly cause a turning point in the functioning of our society. It requires, from now on, to continue strengthening our health structures, to densify our care offer and, above all, to update some of our development projects and programs.

On the other hand, before the test, our health system will have to be even more efficient. The other pathologies which affect Cameroonians just as much should not be overlooked. The same should apply to the usual vaccination program. This is why specialized centers for the care of COVID-19 patients have been set up in Yaoundé and Douala. Others are in the process of being implemented in the chief towns of regions and departments.

My dear compatriots,
Before concluding, I consider it necessary to return for a few moments to the protective measures implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Most are already in use and are certainly helping to slow the spread of the pandemic.

However, in view of the evolution of the health situation and the effects of COVID-19 on our economic and social life, a certain readjustment became essential. I then instructed the Prime Minister, who had already spoken twice on this subject, to speak again to announce new measures and to adapt others already in application. What he did on April 30 with all the necessary clarity.

Without going back to the details of the 19 measures enacted at the end of last month, I would like to clarify their spirit. The main objective was to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the national economy and on the lives of the most vulnerable households. By drawing on the encouraging lessons from our response strategy against COVID-19, it has been possible to take flexibility and support measures for the benefit of the economic sectors concerned and those most affected by the pandemic.

These measures are aimed in particular at:

– to facilitate social life and travel for individuals,

– to suspend the payment of certain taxes, fees and contributions,

– to support companies in difficulty,

– and to raise the level of family allowances and certain pensions.

It goes without saying that these relaxations do not exempt us from observing the “barrier gestures” aimed at limiting the spread of the pandemic, and in particular the wearing of masks in public space as well as the ban on gatherings.

I therefore ask Cameroonians to trust the public authorities. The Government is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and is ready to take all the necessary measures. I can already say this:

– as soon as a treatment is available, the necessary will be done to make it available to our fellow citizens; before that,

– wearing a mask in public space will remain compulsory until further notice.

To this end, the local industry must continue to invest in the manufacture of hydro-alcoholic masks and gels, in strict compliance with the standards prescribed by the Government and the WHO.

I know that I can count, once again, on your patriotism, your sense of responsibility and your courage so that together we can overcome this scourge that affects the entire planet. In this context, let’s avoid stigmatizing those who are affected by the disease. Everyone must feel concerned and contribute to the fight against the spread of this virus. Let us not forget that the negligence of a single person can seriously harm the whole community. So let’s not let our guard down.

Cameroonians, Cameroonians,
My dear compatriots,
As you can see, it will take a lot of effort to fight COVID-19, which can become a threat to the stability of our states.

In this difficult period, we must remain a united, united and disciplined people.

I therefore appeal to a kind of “sacred union” of all the living forces of the Nation to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. Once again, I salute the attitude of almost all of the political leaders and religious authorities who have agreed to join this national fight. I also encourage all efforts to develop an endogenous treatment for COVID-19. Let us devote all our energies to the fight against this common enemy.

Long live the Republic !

Long live Cameroon!

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