The World Health Organization (WHO) on Feb. 20 has called on Tanzania to start reporting and publishing COVID-19 cases and to implement measures to curb the spread of the virus.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus renewed his January calls to Tanzanian authorities to report COVID-19 cases after they stopped reporting last May with over 500 cases and 20 deaths.
Tedros said in a statement that Tanzanian travelers tested positive for the virus, underscoring “the need for Tanzania to take robust action” to protect its citizens, as well as people from other countries.
“This situation remains very concerning,” Tedros said.
President John Magufulili, who had previously downplayed the virus and refused to enforce health measures, later urged his citizens to wear masks, but only locally made ones. He claimed that imported masks were unsafe without providing evidence.
Tedros’ calls came after the deaths of Tanzanian government officials, including Seif Sharif Hamad, who was the vice president of Tanzania’s island of Zanzibar. He was the most prominent politician in the country to have revealed that he contracted COVID-19. He died on Feb. 17.
Government Chief Secretary John Kijazi also died on Feb. 17, but the cause of his death was not provided.
In recent weeks, Tanzania has attributed its spike of deaths in the country to pneumonia.
However, Magufulili, who had declared that his country was “free” from COVID-19 last June, appeared to admit that the virus was circulating in Tanzania during a nationally televised speech at Kijazi’s funeral on Feb. 19.
“When this respiratory disease appeared last year, we won because we put God first and took other measures. I am sure we will win again if we do the same,” Magufulili said.
“Let’s continue to put God first and take precautions,” Magufulili added.