DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA - Dar es Salaam’s Kariakoo Market is the biggest in Tanzania and depends on manufactured products imported from China. But the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease has dried up shipments from China.  

Khalfan Hawadi, a mobile phone trader, said the coronavirus has led to problems with keeping stock up to date. When a trader needs a certain type of phone, he said, it can’t be obtained on time — and meanwhile, the price rises. 

Those close trade ties with China make Tanzania one of the African countries most at risk of importing COVID-19. 

Health authorities are on high alert. The assistant director of epidemiology at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Janeth Mgamba, said officials had taken all precautions. 

A key thing that’s been done, he said, “is to strengthen the port of entry because, as you know now, our threat is now coming from the 58 infected countries, including China. We have employed more staff in the port of entry, and we have built their capacity to be able to detect the cases." 

Tanzania’s Health Ministry said 140 thermal scanners had been set up in all ports of entry. George Ndaki, a health officer with Tanzania Airports Authority, said some suspected cases had been detected, which showed the machines were working properly. He also said that in addition to the scanning equipment, ambulances have been standing by to take patients to hospitals.  

Mobile lab

In Tanzania's more remote areas, such as the tourist city of Arusha, the East African Community’s Mobile Lab project helps test for suspected coronavirus infections. 

Dr. Muna Affara, a laboratory diagnostic coordinator, said that “if the outbreak occurs in remote areas, where there may not be diagnostic capacity, the idea is that the mobile laboratory can move quickly and set themselves up in these remote areas and then start diagnosing cases." 

Meanwhile, Tanzanian doctors such as Kelvin Kaziri are urging everyone to take precautions to avoid the virus. 

Kaziri said the biggest part of the precautions involves personal hygiene — washing hands with soap, avoiding physical contact with others and covering the mouth when coughing. 

But at the busy market in Dar es Salaam, avoiding physical contact is a challenge for traders like Hawadi. 

Even though the coronavirus is a threat to traders’ health, without regular shipments of Chinese products, it’s a bigger threat to their livelihoods. 

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