Tanzania’s claim that the coronavirus outbreak in the country is effectively over has caused a stir internationally at a time when the World Health Organization is warning that the pandemic is accelerating across Africa which may be the next epicentre.But how far should Tanzania’s statistics in relation to the number of local infections be trusted as accurate and reliable?
President John Magufuli had shocked the medical world when he declared categorically at a recent church service that Tanzania is coronavirus-free, meaning that there is no active case of the disease in the East African nation.
This has not gone without skeptics at a time when other countries in Africa especially those bordering Tanzania such as Kenya continue to report a spike in their Covid-19 cases.
Some organisations have accused Tanzania of a Covid-19 cover-up after infections in the country stopped being reported in May and Magufuli claiming that God had demonstrated love for his country by taking it upon Himself to banish the disease from its shores.
The World Health Organization has cast doubt about the reliability of Covid-19 data from Tanzania, insinuating that this could be dangerous for the well-being of its citizens and the health safety of its neighbours.
Last month Kenya shut its borders with Tanzania after experiencing a resurgence in cases imported from neighbouring countries including Somalia.
The African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention had also waded into the subject, providing its own data about the number of infections in the country, putting them at 509 confirmed cases of which there had been 21 deaths as of last month.
The US Embassy in Dar es Salaam went as far as sounding out a warning that the risk of contracting coronavirus remains high for people living in the city, pointing to the government’s supposed reluctance to release true figures of the pandemic in the country.
But Magufuli and his government had stuck to their gun, holding that where other countries have failed in dealing with the pandemic, Tanzania has enlisted the intervention of God for deliverance from coronavirus which has infected over 200, 000 across the continent.
“In Tanzania, the work of the devil will always be defeated because we love God and that is why even the corona has been defeated by God” he told Catholic congregants in the second largest city Dodoma during a Sunday mass.
He had come under fire for apparently encouraging worshippers to congregate in churches and mosques because in his opinion, the virus cannot reside in the body of faithfuls.
Some of his underlings have also been severally quoted as telling the army of the employed to get back to work without any reference to health safety regulations being observed.
Tanzanians keen on the resurgence of their businesses have been praising the government’s decision not to put the country under strict lockdown as happened elsewhere on the continent.
Although it had introduced a modicum of restrictions such as the closure of schools, and large crowds banned, the government has been somewhat lax in their enforcement, clearing avoiding the economic crisis which complete lockdowns have caused in some African countries.
But concerns elsewhere still linger about the “unrevealed statistics” of cases in Tanzania being possibly frightening out of proportion with other figures being given by the Health ministry.
It was well known that Tanzania had the most COVID-19 cases of any East African Community member last month May and many fear that the situation of the virus in the country could be even worse a month on.
Since then footage of ostensibly regular night burials in Tanzania have taken social media by storm with detractors of the government claiming that more people in the country are being decimated by the virus than are being revealed.
Thus as one East African medic puts it, the uncertainty hanging over Tanzania’s Covid-19 crusade is as dangerous as the disease itself.