Tanzania’s new president announced plans to appoint a panel of experts to advise her on how best to curb the spread of the coronavirus, reversing her predecessor’s denialism of the pandemic. “We cannot isolate ourself as an island,” President Samia Suluhu Hassan is quoted in Bloomberg News as saying. “We cannot accept everything from abroad, but we also cannot reject everything.”
Hassan’s predecessor John Magufuli, who died last month, eschewed the use of face masks and advised his countrymen to resort to prayer, steam baths and traditional remedies to safeguard their health. His administration said it wouldn’t buy vaccines and stopped publishing COVID-19 infection data in May last year, making it impossible to gauge the severity of the disease.
However, a deluge of patients displaying coronavirus symptoms seeking treatment at public hospitals and daily funeral masses indicated that Magufuli downplayed the severity of the disease.
The World Health Organisation joined international calls for the nation to change course.
Hassan has said her administration’s response to the pandemic will be science-based, and indicated that it may resume publishing infection data. While Dorothy Gwajima – an ardent supporter of Magufuli’s COVID-19 approach – was retained as health minister, Abel Makubi was appointed to the influential post of permanent secretary in the ministry in place of Mabula Mchembe.
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