Tanzania’s infection rate and death toll from COVID-19 are far higher than the government is acknowledging, Daily Maverick reports opposition activists claim. They insist that at least 412 people have died in the country’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam alone and that 16,000 to 20,000 have been infected countrywide.
The report says officially, only 509 Tanzanians have been tested positive and 26 have died – 14 of those deaths being in Dar es Salaam.
Zitto Kabwe, leader of the opposition ACT Wazalendo party declined to confirm specific figures. But Daily Maverick quotes him as saying that there had been a “massive increase” in the number of infections and deaths in the country – contrary to President John Magufuli’s claims that infections had recently been “massively reduced”. “The government has provided no proof for that claim,” he said, noting that the government had released no COVID-19 statistics since 29 April.
And no testing had been done since 4 May, he said. Information from doctors and others on the front-line of the battle against COVID-19 were that 21,000 samples taken from people in Dar es Salaam had been sent off to the national laboratory for testing since then but that no reports had come back to say how many had proved positive or negative.
Daily Maverick says last month, Magufuli complained that the national medical laboratory was publishing false results and stopped it releasing any more statistics.
“The government says the hospitals are empty,” Kabwe said, but added that it had deliberately “decongested” public hospitals to disprove a recent public claim by the US embassy that the hospitals were being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. He said the government was sending many patients home to care for themselves, which was aggravating the health problem. And the ICUs of Dar es Salaam’s three biggest private hospitals had been 100% full over the last few days, he said.
“We have written to the World Health Organisation. It’s very important to accept verification by the WHO on whether or not tests are being conducted and what is the rate of infection.”
Kabwe said the Tanzanian government was not treating COVID-19 as a public health challenge but a national security issue.
Meanwhile, News24 reports that Tanzania has summoned the top official at the US embassy to object to an advisory that warned of “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases in the country. The embassy's “health advisory” published this month contained inaccurate information, the Foreign Ministry said.
It claimed that “many hospitals” in Dar es Salaam “have been overwhelmed in recent weeks”. “This is not true and could cause panic among Tanzanians and foreigners,” the Foreign Ministry noted.
Full Daily Maverick report
Full report on the News24 site