Tanzania's prime minister, Kassim Majaliwa, on Friday refuted rumors circulating for almost a week now that President John Magufuli is ill, saying he is "healthy and continuing with his duties as usual."
Majaliwa, who spoke during the Islamic Friday prayer in southern Tanzania, urged Tanzanians to ignore reports that their leader was ill.
The prime minister did not elaborate on the president's whereabouts or explain why he has not been seen in public for nearly two weeks, amid rumors that he has contracted COVID-19 and was outside the country for treatment.
Majaliwa said he had spoken with Magufuli by phone and assured Tanzanians that he is well.
The prime minister's remarks were the first official statement by the Tanzanian government about Magufuli's absence from public view amid widespread rumors that he is ill. The 61-year-old leader last appeared publicly on February 27 during an official function at the statehouse in Dar es Salaam, the country's business capital.
Various international media outlets have reported on Magufuli's public absence and his reported transfer to a hospital outside the country. Neither his spokesman, Gerson Msigwa, nor government spokesman Hassan Abbas has responded to media inquiries.
Tanzania’s government has not publicly reported cases of COVID-19 infection since May 2020, when it recorded 509 infections and 21 deaths among the East African country of 60 million people.
Magufuli has promoted prayer and steam inhalation as an antidote to the coronavirus, and he has disparaged new vaccines as “dangerous.”
“If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, then vaccinations for AIDS would have been brought, tuberculosis would be a thing of the past, vaccines for malaria and cancer would have been found,” he said in January.
This report originated in VOA's Swahili Service