Efforts are underway to quarantine, test and treat those who were in contact with the infected person
Dar es Salaam. Life has changed for Tanzanians during the past two days as they come to terms with new realties after the country confirmed the first coronavirus case on Monday.
A random survey revealed that there was a growing public awareness about the deadly COVID-19 with some commuters in Dar es Salaam avoiding crowding as they travel to and from their work places.
Nonetheless, it is apparently impossible to avoid crowding for the five-million people in Tanzanian commercial city. Many commuter buses were seen overcrowded throughout the day.
Health experts were still working hard to zero in on the first confirmed case by employing the ‘trace, test and treat’ model in a deliberate move to save lives.
The Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mr Mrisho Gambo, said the Themi Valley Hotel - which hosted the Tanzanian woman who tested positive of coronavirus - was closed.
“The regional administration has closed Themi Valley and no one is allowed to enter or leave it,” said Mr Gambo, noting that health experts have taken samples of people, who occupied the hotel for testing at the National Health Laboratory in Dar es Salaam.
He said the government was working around the clock to trace everyone that came into contact with the woman in order to test and keep them in quarantine.
“Even the taxi driver, who took the woman from KIA [Kilimanjaro International Airport] to the hotel will be traced and, together with his family, will have their samples taken to Dar es Salaam for testing,” he said.
Key on the government’s agenda to avoid the spread of coronavirus is to ensure that everyone, suspected of carrying the deadly virus, is quarantined and tested before coming to contact with other people.
Health checks at KIA
That way, visitors landing at the KIA from abroad have conspicuously decreased, an indication of impact from the killer coronavirus (COVID-19). The development comes as health checks continue to be intensified against those arriving even as the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Tanzania, a returning resident, passed through the airport.
“Enhanced screening is mostly directed at visitors arriving from the affected countries,” said Mr Charles Thomas Mwaipopo, the principal health officer at the airport on Monday.
He was briefing Members of Parliament on the measures being taken to contain the killer disease soon after the government confirmed that a Tanzanian returning from abroad, and who passed through KIA, had tested positive.
The MPs, from the House Infrastructure Committee visited various units of the recently rehabilitated airport but their attention was turned to COVID-19 as soon as Health minister Ummy Mwalimu announced the first coronavirus case in Tanzania. Airport officials said although all the 15 airlines licensed to land at KIA had not officially cancelled services, the number of visitors from abroad had been on a declining trend for the past couple of weeks.
A 250 plus Ethiopian Airlines jet seat which makes daily flights to the second largest airport in the country had only 33 passengers disembarking while another 157 were preparing to board.
“Visitors arriving have decreased. Of course, this is due to the impact of coronavirus to the aviation sector globally,” said one official who requested anonymity.
Senior airport officials who hosted the MPs declined to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic neither could stakeholders in the multi-million dollar tourism industry which is set to suffer.
In Arusha, news of the first confirmed coronavirus case spread like bushfire although majority of them appeared not surprised as the city is a major destination for foreign tourists.
Tourism stakeholders, including the tour company officials and those of the conservation agencies based here, have been averse to comments on the impact of the pandemic.
With the successful penetration of a huge Asian tourism market in the last two years, specifically China where COVID-19 originated, Arusha was expected to host thousands of Chinese visitors from early this year.
In Mwanza, regional authorities have set up an isolated centre at Buswelu that will be used in attending to people who tested positive for COVID-19.
The Mwanza Regional Medical Officer, Dr Thomas Rutanchuzibwa, said yesterday that the government had also purchased a special ambulance that will be used for transporting those who will test positive for coronavirus.
“We have also trained a total of 321 health personnel in readiness for a possible outbreak,” he said.
Sanitizers, face masks sell out, prices double
Coronavirus fears became a blessing in disguise to sellers of health equipment in Dar es Salaam and Arusha where masks and sanitizers had sold out in a number of pharmacies.
At Kariakoo in Dar es Salaam, one had to cough up to Sh2,500 to buy a face mask. That was a massive rise from the usual retail price of Sh500.
A 500-millilitre bottle of sanitizer rose to a maximum price of Sh50,000 from a maximum retail price of Sh15,000 a few days ago.
At a wholesale price, a box of 50 pieces of face mask were sold for between Sh120,000 and Sh150, 000. That was a massive increase from only Sh10,000 during the period before confirmation of Covid-19.
“Demand is quite high for sanitizers and face masks. The stock we had was sold out by 10am this morning and the problem is that prices keep going up,” said Mr Ahmed Himidu of HM Pharmacy at Kariakoo.
Pharmaceutical operators say prices will rise further as demand increases amid a retarded supply from China, the source of COVD-19.
“I own a pharmaceutical shop here in Kariakoo. I import most of the protect gears from China which got hit severely. The supply is currently too low as they hold them for their own use,” said a source, asking not to be named.
Hand washing can do
The director of services at the KCMC Hospital in Kilimanjaro, Dr Sarah Urasa was of the view that it was not a must for everyone to own sanitizers, noting that what was important was for an individual to cultivate a habit of washing hands with soap and running water.
The hand washing exercise must be conducted for a period of 20 seconds.
“People must wash their hands…A sanitizer is important but it is not everything so long as you are able to wash your hands with soap and running water,” she said.
Reported by Josephine Christopher & Alfred Zacharia in Dar, Janeth Joseph in Moshi, Zephania Ubwani in Arusha and Peter Ongiri in Mwanza