On Saturday afternoon, the World Health Organization’s director-general issued a statement calling once more for the nation of Tanzania to “start reporting COVID-19 cases and share data” as well as “to implement the public health measures that we know work in breaking chains of transmission, and to prepare for vaccination.”
This comes after reports of Tanzanian citizens who have travelled beyond the country’s borders testing positive for COVID-19. As of February 24th, Tanzania’s president has not responded to the latest repeated request, but has made statements since June of 2020 declaring Tanzania “COVID free.” John Magufuli, the nation’s president, stated to the public that “the corona disease has been eliminated [in Tanzania] thanks to God.” as reported by BBC.
The countries surrounding Tanzania such as Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Democratic Republic of Congo have all reported 40,000 to over 100,000 cases of COVID-19 to the World Health Organization. Tanzania being the only country to deny COVID-19 in the region has caused the public as well as many officials to question the legitimacy of the president’s statements, joining the WHO in encouraging Tanzania to record and release COVID data. Contradicting the president’s statements, reports from the Daily Sabah say that Turkish citizens infected with COVID-19 have recently been airlifted from Tanzania. This information does not support the president’s claims as those people directly came from Tanzania, meaning there is a high possibility of COVID-19 in Tanzania. There is no confirmation, however, of whether those individuals were infected in Tanzania. This does not rule out the nation being covid-free as COVID-19 has an extremely high contagion rate, surpassing influenza.
With this data in the hands of the WHO, they can determine whether immediate help and relief to the citizens is needed and save countless lives. With this information, vaccinations can be administered to citizens if the situation is dire to the wellbeing of the country, but the WHO cannot make this determination with no evidence or rather refusal of cooperation to provide evidence. The US Embassy, activists, and the Catholic Church, one of the more powerful institutions in the region, call upon Tanzania to make the “right decision” and cooperate with the World Health Organization.
ARTICLE: AMANDA ORTIZ
WORLD NEWS EDITOR: LUKE LEBAR
PHOTO CREDITS: THE GUARDIAN