After downplaying the disease for months, the President of Tanzania urged its people to take preventive measures against the coronavirus, saying it had been vanquished by prayers.
President John Magufuli urged residents of the East African nation to take care and wear face masks during a Sunday church mass in the capital of Dodoma, but only locally made ones.
Magufuli has expressed concern about foreign-made products, including COVID vaccines, over the course of the pandemic.
According to local media, a few hours later, the health ministry released a statement also calling on people to wear face masks and wash their hands to avoid COVID-19 infections.
The President’s comments came a day after Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, urged Tanzania to take “robust action” to resolve the outbreak in the country as “the situation remains very worrying.”
The call for action came after, according to a statement released by the WHO, a number of Tanzanians traveling to neighboring countries and beyond tested positive for the coronavirus.
Others expressing concern recently include the United States and the local Catholic church.
The nation of 60 million people mourned the death of the vice president of the semi-autonomous island region of Zanzibar, one of its highest-profile leaders, whose infection with COVID had been declared by his political party. The chief secretary of Magufuli has also died in recent days, but the cause has not been identified.
Magufuli, speaking in a nationally televised broadcast on Friday at the funeral of the chief secretary, urged the country to engage in three days of prayer for unspecified “respiratory” diseases that had become a threat to the nation.
As the president has insisted that COVID-19 has been vanquished, Tanzania has not revised its number of coronavirus infections since April.
The official number of coronavirus infections in Tanzania remains at just 509, but residents confirm that many people have become ill with breathing problems and hospitals have seen a spike in patients diagnosed with ‘pneumonia.’