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Tanzania: Expert committee recommends Covid-19 figures re-publication

Tanzania: Expert committee recommends Covid-19 figures re-publication
Tanzania updates coronavirus case figures.   -  
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Ariana Cubillos/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


A committee of experts on Covid-19, set up by Tanzania's new president Samia Suluhu Hassan, recommended on Monday that official figures on the spread of the disease in the country be resumed after more than a year's break.

The task force also called for vaccines to be offered to frontline workers and vulnerable people.

Former President John Magufuli, who died on 18 March, had consistently downplayed the pandemic, relying on prayers to defeat the virus and declaring vaccines potentially "dangerous".

The country has not published statistics on the epidemic since April 2020: the latest figures were 509 cases of infection and 16 deaths.

His successor, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, took the opposite view of his policy, saying that "it is not good to ignore it" (Covid-19).

"We cannot reject it or accept it without the findings of scientific research," the president, who appears in public wearing a mask, said in early April, announcing the creation of a task force to advise her government on managing the pandemic.

In their recommendations to the president on Monday, the experts said that "the government should provide accurate statistics on Covid-19 to the public and the World Health Organisation so that citizens have correct information on the disease, and respect international agreements".

They say that Tanzania has endured two severe waves of coronavirus and is facing a possible third wave.

They also advise the government to offer WHO-approved vaccines to frontline workers, the elderly and people at risk of co-morbidity.

John Magufuli refused to impose measures to contain the disease, minimising its presence and severity.

The devout Catholic had said that his country had "freed itself" from it through prayer. He also mocked the reliability of tests, saying that a goat, a quail and a papaya had tested positive.

Faced with a wave of deaths in February attributed to "pneumonia", affecting even high-level officials, he admitted, however, half-heartedly, that the virus was still circulating.

President since 2015, Mr Magufuli, nicknamed the "Bulldozer", died on 18 March after a mysterious three-week absence, officially of heart problems. But his main opponent claimed he died of Covid-19.

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