DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA - A few days after Tanzania expressed its interest in joining the COVAX global vaccine-sharing facility, the government warned of a third wave of COVID-19 and directed that all precautions to be taken, including wearing face masks. Authorities say that cases are on the rise in all bordering countries, including Uganda, and indications that the disease may again hit the country.
Speaking with journalists Saturday, the director of prevention from Tanzania’s Heath Ministry, Leonard Subi, insisted residents take precautions to protect themselves from infection.
The ministry has begun to see an indication that a third wave of COVID-19 is occurring, Subi said, citing monitoring reports carried out by the ministry as well as interaction between Tanzanians and other nations.
In April 2020, Tanzania stopped publishing COVID-19 data as then-president John Magufuli declared God had eliminated the infection.
Soon after Magufuli’s death in March 2021, new president Samia Hassan started a change in handling COVID infections, including admitting its presence. Now the country is waiting for vaccines.
Opposition politicians such as Yerico Nyerere from the Party of Democracy and Development, or CHADEMA, say the government should emphasize controlling movements particularly in the area bordering Uganda, where the virus has hit strongly.
Nyerere said those areas that have interactions with countries such as Uganda, where there is a high wave of the virus, should enforce serious controls, if possible, even closing the border. He said Tanzania does not want to enter into a lockdown stage, as Uganda has.
Some Tanzanians see the need for the government to enforce nationwide prevention campaigns that will also reach villagers.
Dar es Salaam resident Imani Henrick said she thinks the government should put in place an inclusive strategy, including encouraging people to wear masks and wash their hands. She called for the government to provide supervision, not just recommend precautions. Henrick said some villagers know nothing about precautions and can’t even afford face masks. So, Henrick adds, the government should come with a strategic plan, even including distributing free face masks, particularly for those in the villages.
For Ibrahim Chawe, another Dar es Salaam resident, things have changed. He said he hopes the government will fully implement all the precautions recommended by the COVID-19 committee formed by Hassan, including the publication of data.
Chawe said publicizing information about COVID-19 and telling people to take precautions is a big step compared to the previous period. Chawe adds that before, wearing masks met disapproval. Now, there are major changes in how infections are being handled.
Since Hassan took office in March she has sought to gradually bring Tanzania in line with global public standards for tackling COVID-19.