DAR ES SALAAM, 5 March 2021 – Sixty nuns and 25 priests have died in Tanzania in the last two months after showing symptoms of coronavirus, the Catholic Church in the country has revealed.
Catholic leaders in the east African country invited Tanzanians to take COVID-19 precautions more seriously.
“It is upon every one of us to make sure that we take all the required precautions and protect ourselves and others, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions,” said Rev. Father Charles Kitima, Secretary-General of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC).
Rev. Father Kitima spoke from Tanzania’s economic capital, Dar es Salaam, to journalists during a press conference convened by TEC, the most important governing body and general assembly of the Catholic bishops of Tanzania.
The COVID-19 threat is alive in Tanzania, Father Kitima said, contradicting Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who has repeatedly played down the pandemic, claming among others, that the virus has been prayed away.
Rev. Fr. Kitima said the church could not say whether the deaths of the clergy had been caused by coronavirus as they had not been tested, though they had all shown signs of COVID-19, including “respiratory challenges”.
“People are not tested. That’s a big challenge. The church has about 500 health centres across the country but we are not allowed to test and we don’t have the equipment to do so,” he said.
Tanzania’s health ministry has said Tanzania has no plans to import vaccines.
Tanzania has not published or shared any data on the new coronavirus since May 2020.