Tanzania’s coronavirus cases have increased from just 20 recorded on April 1 to 480 by May 1 and the country now has the highest number of cases in East Africa. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa announced the new tally on April 29, up from 284 just a week ago.
This makes Tanzania the most affected among the six East African Community member countries ahead of Kenya which had 411 cases, Rwanda with 249, Uganda with 85, South Sudan with 45 and Burundi with 15 as at May 2.
Prime Minister Majaliwa also confirmed 16 deaths in the country, after almost a week of silence. Other East African nations are giving almost daily briefings to report new infections, fatalities and recoveries.
Tanzania, unlike other EAC neighbours, has not declared a nationwide lockdown, but has closed schools and colleges, banned social gatherings, prohibited unnecessary movements and suspended international flights.
Opposition leader, Freeman Mbowe, has criticised the handling of the pandemic, calling for more transparency from the government.
“I expected our president to be on the frontline to deal with this crisis, hold discussions with health experts on the pandemic instead of with heads of defence and security,” said Mr Mbowe, chairman of the main opposition party Chadema, in an address circulated through social media.
President John Magufuli on April 22 addressed a joint meeting of heads of defence and security in which he mainly focused on the country’s fight against Covid-19.
The president ruled out a lockdown of the country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, while asking for more positive coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Dar es Salaam is the only centre where we collect almost 80 per cent of the country’s revenue. We can continue taking all measures to curb the virus but not by locking down Dar es Salaam,” he said.
Mr Mbowe also criticised President Magufuli for reshuffling key personnel at the Health Ministry including the Permanent Secretary and Chief Medical Officer during a critical time.
“You don’t change generals in the midst of a war. Transparency and timely information on the pandemic would help citizens to take appropriate precautions to prevent a further spread,” he said.
The country’s health workers last week called for better personal protective equipment (PPEs) to reduce the risk of exposure while at work.
Elisha Osati, president of the Medical Association of Tanzania, said lack of protective gear had led to hospitals and health workers declining to accept and treat patients with Covid-19 symptoms.
“On April 27, health experts in the country held discussions with the Ministry of Health and we agreed on a number of issues including the addition of testing centres in Mwanza, Dodoma and Mbeya, training more experts and access to protective kits for health workers,” said Dr Osati in a briefing to the medics.
The brief, seen by The EastAfrican said the government had ordered PPEs to cover at least one month which should arrive this week.
Arusha-based advocate, Albert Msando, claimed the Covid-19 situation in Arusha was more critical than is being reported. He was consequently arrested on April 29.
Acting Regional Police Commander for Arusha, Koki Moita said Mr Msando is being held for questioning for alleged sedition.
President John Magufuli in March said all information about the coronavirus pandemic would only come from the Prime Minister, Minister for Health or Chief Government Spokesman.