Tanzanian President Samia Hassan takes a 180 degree turn on Magufuli’s Covid policy


Tanzania’s new president announced plans to appoint a panel of experts to advise her on how best to curb the spread of the coronavirus, reversing her predecessor’s rejection of the pandemic.

“We cannot isolate ourselves as an island,” President Samia Suluhu Hassan told senior government officials in a speech televised on state broadcaster TBC1. “We cannot accept everything from abroad, but neither can we reject everything.”

Tanzania mourns the passing of President Magufuli

Photographer: Luke Dray / Getty Images

Hassan’s predecessor John Magufuli, who died last month, avoided wearing masks and advised his compatriots to turn to prayer, steam baths and traditional remedies to safeguard their health. His administration said it would not buy vaccines and stopped publishing Covid-19 infection data in May last year, making it impossible to measure the severity of the disease.

However, a flood of patients showing coronavirus symptoms seeking treatment at public hospitals and daily funeral masses indicated that Magufuli downplayed the severity of the illness. The World Health Organization joined international calls for the nation to change course.

Hassan has said that his administration’s response to the pandemic will be based on science and indicated that it can resume releasing infection data. While Dorothy Gwajima, a fervent supporter of Magufuli’s Covid-19 approach, was retained as Health Minister, Abel Makubi was appointed to the influential permanent secretary position at the ministry in place of Mabula Mchembe.

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