Cloud hangs over Tanzania’s Covid-19 data updates

Saturday May 23 2020

 

By Syriacus Buguzi and Rosemary Mirondo

Dar es Salaam. The release of Covid-19 official statistics has remained a mystery for nearly a month despite a promise by Health minister Ummy Mwalimu who said the government would resume updating the public on the disease’s trends after the rehabilitation of the National Health Laboratory.
Until today May 23, the officially known number of people infected by the coronavirus stood at 509, with 21 deaths and 183 recoveries, however, the data hasn’t been updated for three weeks, triggering concerns over the fate of the testing process and the subsequent release of data.
Early this month, President John Magufuli faulted the results issued by the National Laboratory, saying swabs from a live goat, a quail and a fruit had returned positive results for Covid-19 after agents sent them to the state lab.
He ordered a criminal investigation into the tests, leading to the suspension of the laboratory’s director Nyambura Moremi. Health Minister Mwalimu tasked a 10-man probe committee ordering it to issue a report by May 13.
The Chief Medical Officer Prof Abel Makubi told The Citizen yesterday that the probe committee had completed its work and handed the report to the minister in charge.
“I don’t have the exact date when it was handed over, but they are currently with the minister for further decision,” said Prof Makubi when reached on phone.
Efforts to reach the minister remained futile until press time. But on May 8, when she was inaugurating a public health call centre-Afya Call Center located at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, she was quoted as saying, “We will resume the process of updating the public when the national laboratory is in order.”
 It was not clear if the testing process at the beleaguered laboratory was ongoing or not. But, according to a recent statement issued by the Arusha Regional Commissioner Mrisho Gambo, truck drivers whose tests came out positive for Covid-19 after being tested in Kenya, had been sent to the national lab in Dar es Salaam for confirmation.