The east African country of Tanzania has been in a precarious situation since the beginning of the pandemic. Many families have lost loved ones due to the virus, yet government officials still deny that Covid-19 is a danger, and most recently even refuse the vaccine. Now, the country’s health authorities and president refuse to obtain the vaccine to inoculate his country and people.
With the country’s free speech record not exactly shining, many doctors, journalists and victims of the virus are afraid to speak out based on fear of government retribution. The doctors and health authorities who have seen the state of Covid-19 in the country with their own eyes are reportedly afraid to make public comment.
It is not entirely clear why the Tanzanian president mistrusts vaccines to such an extent, but one reason is the purported fear that the citizens of his country may be used as “Guinea pigs” for mass testing.
President Magufuli, who styles himself as anti-western, anti-imperialist guardian of his country, says “If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for Aids, cancer and TB by now.”
His advice may even be making things worse. At one point, Magufuli, encouraged people to gather in churches and masks to “pray the Covid away.”
Many of the Tanzanian people say that they could use all the help they can get, as even with the virus sweeping across the country, many still cannot afford to stay home away from work. Though their lives are at risk, their livelihoods may be more so.
Some Tanzanians have resorted to making their own masks out of household cloths with varying degrees of protectiveness as the government has failed to acquire even the basic protective equipment such as masks and sanitizers.
As to how long this suppression of truth will continue, is anyone’s guess, but the people of Tanzania, as well as religious authorities within the country have taken matters into their own hands.
“Covid is not finished, Covid is still here. Let’s not be reckless, we need to protect ourselves, wash your hands with soap and water. We also have to go back to wearing masks,” said Yuda Thadei Ruwaichi, Bishop of Dar es Salaam, as he encourages people to take all the necessary precautions practiced around the world.
Even as the true state of the virus remains unknown in the country, it is fair to assume that the numbers are alarming, and may continue to rise if misinformation and recklessness perpetuates itself.