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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

WATCH: Coughing, maskless Tanzania minister holds press briefing to prove he’s not dead

After months of claiming prayer had fended off Covid-19, Tanzanian President John Magafuli has urged citizens to follow precautions.

Tanzania has been highly criticised by Africans for not doing enough to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Now, the country’s Finance Minister, Philip Mpango, held a press briefing at a hospital in Dodoma on Tuesday to prove he was still alive after rumours he had died from Covid-19.

During the briefing, a maskless Mpango struggles to talk as he coughs while seated next to maskless doctors. He has since been discharged from hospital, according to reports.

Tanzanians: Minister of Finance Dr Mpango is seriously ill, on a ventilator, due to COVID-19

Government: Dr Mpango is not very ill. Let’s call a press conference and show you the Finance Minister. He does not even need to wear a mask.

VIDEO – THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/yrDWFJDLmg

— Louis Jadwong (@Jadwong) February 24, 2021

The video has caused outrage from Africans who have criticised the country for delaying progress in the fight against Covid-19 as its citizens continue to travel to neighbouring countries.

ALSO READ: Tanzania first African country to restart league amid virus

President John Magafuli insisted for months that Covid-19 had been fended off with prayer, before finally admitting the country had a Covid-19 problem as deaths continued to rise.

The president has now urged citizens to take precautions and wear locally-made face masks. The country has not updated its number of Covid-19 infections since April last year.

‘Situation remains very concerning’

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called on the country to scale up public health measures against Covid-19 and to prepare for vaccinations.

“I have spoken with several authorities in Tanzania but WHO is yet to receive any information regarding what measures Tanzania is taking to respond to the pandemic.

“This situation remains very concerning. I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases and share data. I also call on Tanzania to implement the public health measures we know work in breaking the chain of transmission and to prepare for vaccination,” Ghebreyesus said this week.

ALSO READ: Tanzania’s Mkapa had malaria, not coronavirus, says family

He said Tanzanians travelling to neighbouring countries and beyond had tested positive for Covid-19.

“This underscores the need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations in these countries and beyond.”

US bans travel to Tanzania

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Tanzania has issued a Level 4 travel health notice for Tanzania, saying testing for Covid-19 is either not available or results are not always available within three calendar days of testing.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases reported by individuals to the US embassy since January 2021,” the  otice says.

“The Tanzanian government has not released aggregate numbers on Covid-19 cases or deaths since April 2020. The use of masks, social distancing and other prevention strategies are largely absent throughout Tanzania.

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“There are increasing reports of test results being significantly delayed and some clinics no longer offering pre-travel testing. Many people also receive inconclusive results and are asked to repeat the test after several days. Travelers have tested positive upon arrival in foreign destinations following negative Covid-19 tests in Tanzania prior to departure.

“Has the government of Tanzania approved a Covid-19 vaccine for use? No,” said the embassy.

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