Tanzania reports over 400 virus cases after year of denial

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Over 400 coronavirus cases have been recorded in Tanzania this month, the health minister said on Saturday, in what was the country’s first update on the COVID-19 situation since May 2020.

Speaking in the capital Dodoma, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said 284 out of a total of 408 patients are currently in need of oxygen.

Most of the cases have been detected in Dodoma, the largest city Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha, and Kagera, the official said.

“We must take great care to protect ourselves. We don’t have to wait until hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients to take action,” Gwajima stressed.

Under former President John Magufuli, a COVID-19 sceptic who died in March this year, Tanzania was largely in denial about the pandemic and there was no data released by the country since at least May 2020.

Magufuli was openly opposed to wearing masks or observing social distancing rules, drawing criticism and outrage within the country and also from around the globe.

Since coming to power in March, his successor, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, has formed a committee of experts to advise her on the best way to combat the pandemic.

In her maiden speech in Parliament on June 28, she said the government would spend $470 million to import vaccines and bail out sectors of the economy that have been impacted by the pandemic.

The government has also allowed foreign embassies and international agencies to procure COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate their citizens and staff in Tanzania.

Tanzania is also deliberating setting up a factory to manufacture COVID-19 and other vaccines, according to Abel Makubi, permanent secretary of the Health Ministry.

“We will not only produce COVID-19 vaccines but vaccines for other diseases, so that even when the pandemic ends, Tanzania will still have the capacity to produce such medicines locally,” he was quoted as saying by The Citizen newspaper.