By Leon Charles Moukouri
In Brazzaville, life is taking its usual course since the containment, ordered on March 28 by President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, does not seem to be winning the full support of the population.
In the capital, people go about their business as if it were normal times. The streets, markets and banks remain bustling with activity. But these are unusual times in Congo as the coronavirus has already claimed five lives out of 45 cases that tested positive for the virus.
President Sassou-Nguesso in his message to the nation, declared a state of health emergency, a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and the lockdown at home of the entire population, with the exception of those who work in the supply chain for goods and services, which are vital for the running of the country.
Despite the heavy police presence, containment went badly wrong with Brazzavillians.
“I went out to collect my salary. I could not be in lockdown without the money that will allow me to stock up on food” said Ngatsé Philippe, an official interviewed near a bank.
While in the queue, customers don't seem to care a jot about social distancing to avoid possible contamination.
In a country where salaried jobs are not legiondary, de-confinement is the watchword for many people.
“We are trying to respect the decisions of the state. But the government has not yet taken the accompanying measures to allow the population to face this situation,” Eugene Kabi decried.
An anxious 60-year-old man noted that “the city of Brazzaville is supplied with food products from within the country...however, there is no longer any movement from one city to another.”
To avoid being caught in financial dire straits, Arnaud Bayakissa sent his family of six to the village.
“The trip cost me nearly CFA70,000. The transport fee has doubled or even tripled for certain areas, going from CFA5,000 in normal times to CFA20,000” he explained.
All in all, Mr. Bayakissa does not regret his decision since, according to him, “the prices of basic necessities have soared, as residents rush to the markets.”
According to this father, “the hardest part would be to live in confinement and in precariousness.”
Arnaud, a bus driver who plied his trade in the capital before the pandemic is currently jobless.
Before the coronavirus, Congo was already facing a serious economic crisis.
Now many Congolese are living in fear that the country will implode.
The citizenry are being sensitized on the lethal nature of the virus but a sizeable section of the population urges those in power to “change their schemes or strategies,” so that the recommended safety regulations are strictly observed.
For its part the government is threatening to apply the stick against the recalcitrant.
Obviously, a large segment of the population cannot survive the restrictions on freedoms if the state fails to take social measures.
Young mother Marguerite Mbaya warned that, “the fund intended for the relief of vulnerable people, must be quickly deployed, otherwise hunger could take more lives than the Covid-19 itself.”