Tanzania - Covid-19

WHO urges Tanzania to share Covid figures as travellers test positive

Members of a choir at Ufunuo na Uzima church in Dar es Salaam sing without masks on 7 February. Tanzania claims its citizens have prayed out Covid-19.
Members of a choir at Ufunuo na Uzima church in Dar es Salaam sing without masks on 7 February. Tanzania claims its citizens have prayed out Covid-19. © AFP - STRINGER
3 min

The World Health Organization has renewed its call for Tanzania to make its Covid-19 statistics public, after a number of domestic and foreign travellers coming from the country tested positive for the disease. 

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“This situation remains very concerning…there is a need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations in these countries and beyond,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the world health body’s website.

Last Monday, Thailand reported that a Thai man coming from Tanzania tested positive for the highly contagious South African strain of Covid-19.

Tanzanian authorities have repeatedly denied requests from the WHO and other regional health bodies to share information on the virus. The last Covid-19 statistics were released in May 2020.

President John Magufuli has said citizens "prayed" the virus away, and recently told Tanzanians that they should only wear locally-made face masks, saying foreign ones could be unsafe.

Vaccine veto

The president is also sceptical about the available vaccines. Although Tanzania was offered Covid-19 vaccines through the Covax global programme to deliver doses to low and middle-income countries, Tanzania has refused to accept them.

“If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for Aids by now. He would have found a vaccination of tuberculosis by now, he would have found a vaccination for malaria by now, he would have found a vaccination for cancer by now,” said Magufuli earlier this month.

The WHO head also repeated his call for Tanzania to accept and distribute vaccines, a request he originally made with Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa head, in late January.

Instead, health authorities, including Tanzania’s Health Minister Dorothy Gwajimahave called for steam treatment and local herbs to stave off the virus. She made a short video with her husband to show how to use steam and herbs.

The WHO and other health entities have debunked the use of steam and herbs in combating Covid-19.

A statement from Magufuli’s office indicated that Tanzanians needed to put God first, explaining that “wearing masks, social distancing and lockdowns have been seen to be insufficient as countries that implemented them have lost thousands compared to Tanzania”.

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