Tanzania President John Magufuli said Sunday that the number of Covid-19 cases there had dropped drastically thanks to the populations’ prayers, and implied the epidemic might soon end.
Magufuli’s government has been criticised for a lack of transparency regarding the toll that Covid-19 has taken, with the last official update on 29 April listing 480 cases, including 16 deaths.
Only the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar has provided more recent data.
On Sunday, the president proclaimed: “We started with God and we will finish with God. Looking at what is going on in our hospitals, it’s obvious that God has responded to our prayers.”
National television broadcast his comments from a church in his northwestern hometown of Chato, on Lake Victoria where he has been since 28 March.
Magufuli cited several examples of improvement, notably at the Amana hospital in Dar es Salaam, where the number of patients reportedly dropped from 198 to 12.
In the town of Lulanzi, the previous number of 50 patients had fallen to 22, the president added.
“As things go, we can plan another three days of thanking God for the outcome… probably from next Friday,” he said.
Magufuli did not update the official toll in his speech.
In April, he criticised his health minister for stoking panic among the population with regular announcements of new cases.
The president said Sunday that one of his children had contracted coronavirus and had recovered thanks to steam inhalations using lemons and ginger.
He has not ruled out reopening universities and authorising sports events if the number of cases continues to decline.
Tanzanian opposition figures this week demanded the government release daily statistics on the epidemic.
The US embassy has warned of an “extremely high” risk of infection in Dar es Salaam, the economic capital, advising staff and their families to remain at home.
“All evidence points to exponential growth of the epidemic in Dar and other locations in Tanzania,” an embassy statement said.
Although it has closed schools, the government has allowed shops and transportation networks to function as usual.