Tanzania's President, John Magufuli, has been accused of causing thousands of deaths in the country and undermining the fight against the pandemic across the continent. Magufuli’s policies had cost lives. Vaccination programmes are now under way or planned in most African countries, but not Tanzania.
Magufuli has denied the local spread of Covid-19 in Tanzania, discouraged the mention of the disease by health workers, rejected most conventional measures in favour of prayer and said vaccines are dangerous. Tanzania has not published any statistics for Covid-19 cases since May 2020 when it logged 509, and has no testing programme.
Experts fear that Magufuli’s policies will allow Tanzania to act as a source of infections and new variants, which could spread across Africa and beyond. The WHO last week called on Tanzania to protect not only its own 58 million citizens but also neighbouring countries.
Burial workers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city, and on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar told the Observer they face unprecedented demand. Churches said priests are conducting more funeral services than “in living memory”. Doctors said hospitals are overwhelmed, with an acute shortage of beds and oxygen.
South Africa, which has roughly the same population, has suffered almost 50,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to official statistics, and many more according to excess mortality figures.
“We have elderly patients coming in, showing every symptom that we’ve seen around the world but we cannot test … we are not allowed to even mention Covid-19. We have to call it pneumonia,” said one doctor.