One step forward, ten steps back

There was a moment of euphoria yesterday, my WhatsApp was alive with messages, “President Magufuli has acknowledged Tanzania as a COVID problem”. The messages kept coming. I couldn’t believe it.

The joy was short lived. the sight of Dr. Mpango our Finance Minister coughing and gasping during a news conference is nothing short of shocking to watch. There were rumors circulating on social media he was being treated for COVID. Clearly, he was coerced into leading the news conference. Dr. Mpango attributed his illness to ‘pneumonia’ the code word for COVID-19 in Tanzania. Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker of Tanzania continued with her biding for the administration. She admitted she had COVID not once, but twice and proceeded to dismiss it as no big deal. I wonder how she knew she had COVID in the first place, she must have disobeyed Magufuli and got a test. But, then Magufuli maintains COVID tests are bogus… I am confused.

Whilst the Tanzanian government was doing its best sending out mixed messages, neighboring Kenya has put stringent measures on its borders with Tanzania and the US Embassy changed travel advice to Level 4 – do not travel. The US Embassy has been a vocal critic of the situation in Tanzania and the handling of the COVID pandemic, whilst our man in Dar-Es-Salaam, David Concar (the British Ambassador to Tanzania) is suspiciously quiet. On 19th January of this year, Labour MP Stephen Doughty asked the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the response of the Government of Tanzania to the COVID-19 pandemic; and what support the Government is providing to that country. It turns out our government has been putting messages on local radio on hand washing and social distancing. Would someone like to follow up and ask the government how they think this little campaign has gone? Perhaps a radio campaign debunking herbal remedies as a cure for COVID would’ve been more useful. Meanwhile, a friend in Arusha got in touch yesterday, to say they had their worse night yet. Ambulances collecting bodies from peoples home in the cover of darkness. I have personally lost six relatives and friends since January.

What will it take to challenge President Magufuli?

The situation in Tanzania poses a threat to all of us. The virus has no borders. Tanzania could soon become ground zero for new COVID variants derailing the progress we have made with vaccines. It really is in all our interests to speak up, write to your MP, share the plight of Tanzania on your Social Media or reach out to your church community (Magufuli is a devout Catholic and this could be a way to influence change). Do something, please.

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