DAR ES SALAAM, June 25 (Reuters) – Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan urged the public on Friday not to ignore a third wave of COVID-19, after her predecessor, the late John Magufuli, alarmed the world with his sceptical approach to the pandemic.
Since Hassan took office after the death of Magufuli in March, the government has changed tack from downplaying the crisis to calling for social distancing and emphasising mask wearing in public.
There is currently no COVID-19 vaccination programme in Tanzania, but the country has applied to join COVAX vaccine-sharing facility and officials there are working with health partners to develop a deployment plan, the World Health Organization said earlier this month.
The government has also asked the International Monetary Fund for a $571 million loan to help it tackle the challenges caused by the coronavirus.
“As you know the world is grappling with the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hassan said in a speech to Catholic bishops in Dar es Salaam.
“We came from the first wave and Tanzania was affected,” she added. “The second wave came and dropped and now there is the third wave. There are signs of the third wave in our country. We have COVID-19 patients who have been seen in this third wave.”
Before his death in March from long-term heart disease, Magufuli dismissed the threat of COVID-19, suggested Tanzania was free of the virus and called vaccines a Western conspiracy.
Under his watch, the country of 58 million people stopped reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths in May 2020.
Hassan said on Friday that during a recent visit to a hospital in Dar es Salaam she was told by a doctor about patients who were struggling with breathing issues.
“I asked him to say the truth – ‘is it COVID-19?’ He said, ‘yes, it is COVID-19,'” she told the crowd of religious leaders.
“This pandemic is here and we should not ignore it,” she said.
(Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)