DODOMA, 24 February 2021 – The Tanzanian government has finally acknowledged the existence of COVID-19 and has introduced measures to fight the virus.
The announcement comes months after Tanzanian President John Magufuli and his cabinet insisted that the virus had been prayed out of the country.
The powerful Catholic Church in the country, foreign missions, development partners, and public health specialists, notably World Health Organization (WHO) officials, have been gravely concerned as COVID-19 infections – code named “breathing problems” – continued to rise.
A spate of deaths of high-profile government officials over the last few days may have forced the authorities in the capital, Dodoma, to have an epiphany.
Over the last ten days, Tanzania lost the first vice president of the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad; the chief secretary and head of the civil service, John Kijazi; and the former Bank of Tanzania Governor, Professor Benno Ndulu.
Last week, the WHO encouraged Tanzania to take “robust action” to tackle the virus, pointing to the many instances of Tanzanians testing positive for COVID-19 after leaving the country and traveling to another to demonstrated that the virus is well and alive in the country.
WHO has described the situation in Tanzania as “very concerning”.
Tanzania’s ministry of health on Wednesday released a statement urging Tanzanians to take precautions, including hand washing and wearing face masks.
On Tuesday, the Dar Rapid Transit Agency released new guidelines for traveling on the capital Dar es Salaam’s public transport, making int mandatory for riders to wear face coverings and to social distance.
For the first time, a COVID-19 testing center has been set up at the Serengeti National Park.
The leader of the opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency, Zitto Kabwe, has called the new rules insufficient.
“There is not enough testing happening, and without that it is difficult to reduce the transmission,” Kabwe said Wednesday, pointing out that the country’s health system is already overwhelmed.
Although the number of COVID-19 cases is unknown, medical professionals say hospitals are struggling to deal with the number of patients they are seeing with so-called “respiratory problems”.
It is still not clear if the embrace of the reality of COVID-19 will extend to Dodoma accepting to taking and sharing COVID-19 infection and fatality data, as well as changing its mind about not importing vaccines to fight the pandemic.
Burundi is the only other country in Africa that, whole not denying the existence of the virus, has said it has no plans to import COVID-19 vaccines.