Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest

Situation Report
Tanzania — Trends

President declares the country COVID-19 free amidst increasing criticism over the lack of information on numbers

  • First case: 16 March

  • Total cases: 509 (as of 8 May 2020)

  • Total deaths: 21

  • Schools: Reopened on 1 June.

  • Borders/flights: Open, no quarantine requested for travellers.

  • Containment measures: no restrictions currently in place.

President John Magufuli announced on 8 June that Tanzania is now COVID-19 free, after all patientes reportedly recovered the disease. The President attributed the alleged success over the pandemic to prayers and fasting that the people of Tanzania have offered to God. The confirmed number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 remained at 509, including 21 who died from the disease. The total, however, is likely to be higher, as the Government has not made public any official update since 8 May. The lack of information on numbers led opposition parties in the country to demand the Government, on repeated occasions, the truth about the COVID-19 outbreak, according to media reports. In a health alert released by the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania on 13 May, the United States warned its citizens that "despite limited official reports, all evidence points to exponential growth of the epidemic in Dar es Sallam and other locations in Tanzania," adding that "many hospitals in Dar have been overwhelmed in recent weeks".

The President of Tanzania announced on 18 May that the country reopened its borders to international passenger flights and there is no mandatory quarantine for incoming travellers as previously required. Authorities will, instead, enhance COVID-19 screening at the borders. Schools and universities also reopened from 1 June, and all economic activities are allowed to operate.

The Government suspended on 4 May the head of its National Health Laboratory in charge of COVID-19 testing, a day after the President questioned the accuracy of the tests, stating the material sent by the African Union were faulty. Following the incident, the Head of the African Union’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), on 7 May, rejected the allegations of problems on the materials and informed during a press conference that the tests used by Tanzania are working correctly. Since the start of the pandemic, political parties and civil society organizations have been repeatedly accused the Government of downplaying the effect of the virus and criticized President Magufuli for allegedly hiding information and misleading the population. The leader has been encouraging people to pray and attend church, as religious gatherings are allowed in the country.

Response:

  • President John Magufuli has banned the 56 Union Celebrations, normally held on 26 April, and ordered that the Sh500 million that was budgeted for the event be spent on boosting the COVID-19 Special Fund for the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar.

  • The Ministry of Education has announced arrangements to ensure that student learning programs are aired through radio and television, following the indefinite extension of closure of schools announced on 14 April.

Official sources:

Ministry of Health updates on COVID-19 and Government of Tanzania Spokesperson Official Twitter Other links:

BBC Tanzania COVID-19 coverage

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Policy Response to COVID-19, by IMF

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