Tanzania explains silence over Covid-19 updates

Thursday May 07 2020

Dar es Salaam. Today marks seven days since the government released results of samples tested for the coronavirus, as health authorities coordinating the Covid-19 fight say they are still working on a comprehensive report and that would determine when the results would be out.
Until yesterday, the only publicly available update on the state of Covid-19 in the country was a report issued since Wednesday last week by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa which indicated that there were 480 confirmed cases of the viral disease with 16 deaths in Tanzania.
 The data combined results of samples obtained from Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar. But according to the National Coordinator for Covid-19 Response and Ministry of Health’s Public Health Emergencies’ Risk Communication Officer, Dr Tumaini Haonga, the testing of samples is ongoing at the National Health Laboratory and results would be announced by the relevant authorities.
 He did not, however, explain if there was a set date or interval for release of the data.On Sunday President John Magufuli took a swipe at the test results issued by the National Health Laboratory, saying the lab should be investigated for alleged “sabotage,” after samples of sheep, pawpaw and goat that were secretly sent to the facility returned positive results.
 The laboratory’s director, Dr Nyambura Moremi, and the quality assurance manager, Mr Jacob Lusekelo, remain suspended pending investigations, heightening concerns as to whether further results on tested samples would be released to the public.
Dr Haonga told The Citizen yesterday that people who have been tested for Covid-19 in the country are receiving results but he emphasized, saying the public release of the results will depend on whether there is enough data to issue out to the public.
“We noted that it was not sensible to give daily updates of small numbers. It was then decided that a comprehensive report would be issued by the Ministry of Health or another relevant authority at an opportune time, alongside other public health sensitisation messages on Covid-19 prevention,’’ said Dr Haonga.
The Zanzibar Ministry of Health says it would resume the process of releasing results next Monday. For the past six days, Zanzibar had stopped issuing results of the tested coronavirus samples.
The minister, Mr Hamad Rashid Mohammed, told The Citizen that a new testing machine was still being installed in the Isles.
“We ordered for a testing machine which we are in the process of installing and we will start issuing results by Monday nest week,’’ said the minister in a phone interview.
The Covid-19 testing results are central to the management of the disease and are key in helping relatives of the deceased who test positive to know how to conduct the burials.
The Chief Medical Officer Prof Abel Makubi on Tuesday said the government had allowed relatives who preferred to be given the bodies of their loved ones for burial at their homes to do so.
 He asked regional authorities to set procedures that would help people to conduct burials as they protect the general public against