The absence of Tanzania President John Magufuli from the public has sparked off a rumour that he contracted COVID-19 and on admission in a hospital.

 

Magafuli was reportedly last seen in public during a tour of Dar es Salaam, where he had inspected projects and addressed public gatherings.

 

Tundu Lissu, opposition leader, had questioned the whereabouts of the president, saying Magufuli’s well-being is “a matter of grave public concern”.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Tanzanian president has consistently downplayed the danger of COVID-19, sparking off widespread criticism.

The country has not updated its number of COVID-19 infections since last year April as Magafuli claims that the virus had been defeated.

 

The official number of infections remains at just 509 but reports that many people have become ill with breathing difficulties have been on the rise and hospitals have seen a rise in patients for “pneumonia”.

 

Magufuli warned the country’s health ministry against “rushing into embracing the COVID-19 vaccines promoted by foreign companies and countries”, while claiming that little has been done to help cure other diseases like tuberculosis, HIV/Aids, and malaria.

 

“You should stand firm. Vaccinations are dangerous. 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,” he said in January.

“The Health ministry must know that not every vaccination is meaningful to our nation. Tanzanians must be mindful so that we are not used for trials of some doubtful vaccinations which can have serious repercussions on our health.”

 

Africa Report  quoted a doctor as saying “We are pressured by the authorities not to attend to people who have coronavirus symptoms rather than treating them for pneumonia and lung infections. As doctors, we are in danger because we are not even getting personal protective equipment. The government has to change its perception and take this pandemic seriously”.

 

The country has been hit by a wave of deaths that were officially attributed to pneumonia.

 

Several top-ranking government officials that have died include Gregory Teu, former deputy finance minister; Benno Ndulu, former governor of Bank of Tanzania, John Kijazi, chief secretary to the statehouse, and Seif Sharrif Hamad, first vice-president of Zanzibar, whose party–ACT Wazalendo party– had confirmed that he tested positive for the infection before his death.

In its latest travel guide, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tanzania’s level of COVID-19 is “very high”. The country advised people against travelling there.

 

Also, the World Health Organisation has continued to ask the country to share its data on infections.

 

In February, Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, asked Tanzania to take measures to protect its people from the infection.

 

“Many Tanzanians travelling to neighbouring countries and beyond have tested positive for Covid-19. This shows the need for Tanzania to take robust measures to protect both its own people and people in these countries and elsewhere,” Ghebreyesus had said.

 

But speaking during a Sunday church mass in the capital Dodoma on February 21, Magafuli appeared to have acknowledged the existence of the disease.

 

Although he did not specifically name the virus, the president asked Tanzanians to start wearing face masks for “respiratory” illnesses that are becoming a problem.

 

He asked citizens to take preventive measures by wearing face masks — but only locally made ones.