Tanzania politics hit by closures

Saturday March 21 2020

Coronavirus

A worker checks the temperature of travellers at the border post with Kenya in Namanga, northern Tanzania, on March 16, 2020, on the day Tanzania confirmed the first case of the covid-19. PHOTO | FILBERT RWEYEMAMU | AFP 

CHRISTOPHER KIDANKA
By CHRISTOPHER KIDANKA
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As Tanzania moved to limit social gatherings, the biggest hit has been political and affected the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi.

The government shut down schools and universities and banned religious gatherings, internal and public party meetings for 30 days, with workers encouraged to work from home whenever possible.

This also effectively stopped, for the first time since 1964, the annual Uhuru Torch Race across the country.

The torch, a symbol of Independence and socialist ideology had long been criticised as outdated and expensive. But subsequent governments adamantly kept the flame burning, literally.

This year, the coronavirus has extinguished it.

President John Magufuli announced last week that the race—that would have burnt a substantial sum—will not run this year in keeping with the government order to avoid crowds.

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Resource re-allocation

The money will instead be channelled towards fighting the pandemic, such as buying hand sanitizers and fumigating public spaces.

Tanzania, like the rest of the region, has cancelled all sporting events including the national football league for the next 30 days.

Surveillance for suspected infected travellers has been heightened at all ports of entry, but mass testing is not on the cards yet.

Tanzania and the rest of the region can either opt for the Chinese-style complete quarantining or go the South Korea model of open information, public participation and widespread testing. The countries managed to contain the virus spread and reduced deaths within a shorter time.

At the same time, the economic prospect for Africa remains challenging as China and Europe, the continent's two major trading partners, were both hit hard by the outbreak.

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