By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The Cameroon government has outlined plans to ease the restrictions it imposed weeks ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Chief Dr Dion Ngute said the measures will be relaxed as from May 1, with bars, restaurants, allowed to open after 6 pm. The compulsory wearing of masks has been maintained. Schools remain shut with the hope of reopening in June.
The easing of the measures put in place has been well received by the population across the country. Some have, however, questioned the opening of bars, restaurants, with nothing said about churches.
No information has equally been made about the resumption of sporting activities in the country. Professional football in Cameroon was put on hold mid-March due to the virus. It is still uncertain when football will resume. The coronavirus had a tremendous impact on Cameroon hosting some competition such as the CHAN, the CAF Champions League final, as the two events were pushed forward.
The latest number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Cameroon stands at 1,832, with 61 deaths, and 934 recoveries.
“Although screening tests reveal new cases of corona virus-positive patients, the number of people declared healed of this disease in our country has been on the rise,” PM Dion Ngute said in a press outing.
“Furthermore, the mortality rate from this virus remains low, compared to the number of positive cases.”
What has been announced?
The opening after 6 p.m. of bars, restaurants and leisure facilities, with the obligation for customers and users to respect barrier measures, in particular, the wearing of protective masks and social distancing;
The lifting of the measure reducing the mandatory number of passengers in all public transport by bus and taxi. The wearing of masks remains compulsory and overloading is prohibited;
The suspension for the second quarter of 2020 of general accounting audits, except in cases of suspected tax evasion;
The postponement of the deadline for filing Statistical and Tax Declarations, without penalties in case of payment of the corresponding balance;
The granting of moratoria and deferrals of payment to companies directly affected by the crisis, hence, suspending forced recovery measures against them;
Supporting the finances of companies through the allocation of a special envelope of CFAF 25 billion for the clearance of stocks of VAT credits awaiting reimbursement;
The postponement of the deadline to pay land taxes for the 2020 financial year, to 30 September 2020;
Full deductibility to determine the corporate income tax of donations and gifts made by companies for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic;
The exemption from the Tourist Tax in the hotel and catering sectors for the rest of the 2020 financial year, as from March;
Exemption from the withholding tax and from parking fees for taxis and motorbikes, as well as from the axle tax for the 2nd quarter. This measure could be extended to the rest of 2020;
Exemption for the second quarter from the withholding tax and council taxes (market duty, etc.) for petty traders (bayam sellam);
The temporary suspension for three months of the payment of parking and demurrage charges in the Douala and Kribi ports for essential goods;
The establishment of a MINFI-MINEPAT consultation framework, with the main economic actors, to mitigate the effects of the crisis and promote a rapid resumption of activity;
The suspension for three months, that is, April, May and June, of on-site inspections by the National Social Insurance Fund (NSIF);
The cancellation of penalties for late payment of social security contributions due to the NSIF, upon reasoned request;
Spreading the payment of the social security contributions for April, May and June 2020 over three instalments, upon reasoned request;
The maintenance, for the next three months, that is, from May to July, of the payment of family allowances to staff of companies which are unable to pay social security contributions or which have placed their staff on technical leave because of the economic downturn, particularly in the catering, hotel and transport sectors;
The increase of family allowance from CFAF 2,800 to CFAF 4,500;
The 20% increase of old pensions that were not automatically revaluated after the 2016 reform.
The government has equally extended the measures taken on 17 March 2020, as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response strategy, for an additional 15 days, renewable if necessary.
Prime Minister Dion Ngute added: “I urge the population to continue to strictly observe the barrier gestures and all measures aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus in our country, in particular the systematic wearing of protective masks in all areas open to the public and the prohibition of gatherings.”
“I also call on public workers who have abandoned their duty posts, under the pretext of confinement due to COVID-19, to return without delay to their places of work, failing which they will be subject to the disciplinary sanctions provided for by the regulations in force.”