More than 25 priests and 60 nuns and two elders of the laity have died in Tanzania in the last two months after having coronavirus symptoms, the country's Catholic Church said on Wednesday.
The church has warned people to take COVID-19 precautions in the East African country as the government only last week finally acknowledged a coronavirus problem.
President John Magufuli had previously claimed that the disease had been defeated by prayer, causing the Catholic church, the US Embassy and World Health Organization to call for Tanzania to acknowledge coronavirus.
Magufuli did a U-turn on February 21 urged citizens of the East African country to take precautions and even wear face masks—but only locally made ones.
Father Charles Kitima, secretary of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) - an official assembly of Catholic Bishops, said on Wednesday the Covid-19 threat was alive in Tanzania.
“It is upon every one of us to make sure that we take all the required precautions and protect ourselves and others, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions,” he told a press conference in Dar es Salaam.
“People are not tested. That’s a big challenge. The church has about 500 health centres across the country but we are not allowed to test and we don’t have the equipment to do so,” he said.
In January the church said it noted a surge in deaths in its parishes.
Tanzania has not issued any statistics on Covid-19 since May last year.
Last month, the health ministry said the East African country had no plans to vaccinate.