Tanzania appears to admit it has a Covid-19 problem

Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who previously claimed his East African country was free of coronavirus, has urged citizens to take preventive measures against the pandemic after the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern over the situation.

Magufuli told worshipers at a church in Dodoma, the capital, yesterday that they should wear locally made face masks and take other precautions to protect themselves against the virus.

“President Magufuli has insisted on the use of traditional methods in containing respiratory diseases, including applying steaming and avoiding fear which has more impacts,” said government spokesman Gerson Msigwa, the country’s Citizen website reported.

“Tanzanians should put God first because prevention measures such as putting on masks, observing social distancing and the lockdown haven’t resolved the problem in the countries they have been applied. Rather, thousands of people have died.”

His comments came after WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom, urged Tanzania “to scale public health measures against Covid-19 and to prepare for vaccination”.

“This situation remains very concerning. I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases and share data,” said Tedros.

Unlike most other governments, Tanzania’s does not release regular reports on the extent of the pandemic in the country.

A number of high-profile Tanzanians are thought to have died of the disease in recent weeks, including the vice-president of the semi-autonomous Zanzibar island.

Magufuli had always called on Tanzanians to participate in prayer and fasting for protection.

Kenya closed its border with Tanzania last May to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

WHO’s Tedros said in his statement that “a number of Tanzanians travelling to neighbouring countries and beyond have tested positive for Covid-19”.

“This underscores the need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations in these countries and beyond.”

Officially, Tanzania’s coronavirus numbers stand at 509 but analysts believe many more people have contracted the virus.

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