President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Monday received a Covid-19 report from a committee of experts tasked with evaluating the Covid-19 situation in the country.
The report of the experts was handed over to President Samia by committee chairman, Prof Said Aboud, at State House Dar es Salaam. The report urged the government to scale up public health measures against Covid-19 and take a science-based approach to the response.
Speaking to journalists, Prof Aboud, said the group has made 19 recommendations to the government on pandemic.
The committee suggests that Tanzania is at risk of a third wave of the virus.
Since the first outbreak reported in March 2020 in the country, Tanzania has been hit by two major waves, “now due to the trend of the novel virus in the world there is a threat of a third wave in the country,” Prof Aboud said.
Tanzania has not reported any cases of the coronavirus since May 2020, causing the WHO to make a rare statement calling the situation “very concerning.”
With no prevention measures, the virus was able to spread unabated.
Recently, scientists said a highly mutated variant of the virus was found in three people traveling from Tanzania to Angola.
The committee's key recommendations include:
- The government should revitalise emergency plans at all levels for disaster response, including on the Covid-19 epidemic.
- The government should provide information on the presence of Covid-19 and take concrete steps to strengthen all preventive measures at all levels to prevent the third wave of the disease.
- Health professionals should fulfil their professional responsibilities, based on professionalism, norms and values in educating, preventing and treating Covid-19 disease in the country.
- Tanzania participates effectively in decision-making and implements regional and international resolutions adopted in the EAC, SADC, AU and WHO communities.
- The government [should] use its instruments to proceed with steps towards allowing the free use of the vaccine against Covid-19, using the vaccines listed by the World Health Organization, in order to give its citizens the opportunity to protect themselves, because through the analysis of the committee, such vaccines are scientifically effective and safe.
- The National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAG) and the Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Authority (TMDA) should continue to be involved in advising and controlling such vaccines.
- Priority for the provision of vaccines against Covid-19 in the country should start with the following categories of importance: healthcare workers and frontline workers for example workers in the tourism industry, hotels and at borders; religious leaders and pilgrims; the elderly and adults aged 50 and over; adults with comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory diseases, and kidney disease; staff of security agencies; and [people] travelling abroad.
- To mobilise and prepare for the reception, care, transportation and delivery of vaccines, and [for] the public to be free to decide whether to vaccinate or not. The government will coordinate access to immunisations for staff of international institutions in the country.
The committee further urged the government to build local capacity for the detection of coronavirus infections so the country can have accurate data on the disease and be able to tackle it effectively.
The committee supported the use of alternative therapies and natural remedies but said these should be based on scientific principles.
"The government should provide an opportunity for scientists to continue conducting research in accordance with norms and ethics," said Prof Aboud.
Tanzania last released data on the pandemic almost a year ago, which showed that the country had only 509 cases. At the time, the late President John Magufuli said his country was free from Covid-19 while authorities encouraged local remedies such as steam therapy. However, there have been reports that many people have died from the disease.
Zanzibar Vice President Seif Hamad in February said he had contracted the virus and shortly thereafter died in hospital.
While the country is eligible for free vaccines from Covax, the global Covid-19 vaccine initiative, the late President John Magufuli’s administration took no steps to receive doses, instead warning that the public could be used as “guinea pigs.”
But President Samia, who took office in March from her predecessor, following a year of denial about Covid-19 presence in the country and scoffing at mask-wearing and other public health measures, has decided to change the country’s approach to the pandemic.
On April 6 this year, President Samia announced that she had formed a committee of experts to evaluate the situation and make recommendations that will guide the country on how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
"We cannot isolate ourselves as if we are an Island but also, we cannot accept everything brought to us ... we cannot continue just reading about Covid-19 worldwide yet Tanzania is all blank, it is incomprehensible."
According to the President, Tanzania needs to have a clear and understandable position regarding the pandemic so that it can make informed decisions.
In view of that, she said, Tanzania cannot rely on outside reports on the state of the pandemic while it has none.