Health ministry rules out a total lockdown for now

Dr Faustine Ndugulile

What you need to know:

Measures they started with included strengthening preparedness to deal with the outbreak, and they are now at a good response level.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is still far from a lockdown, Health deputy minister Faustine Ndugulile said yesterday - adding that even the 17 Covid-19 patients under quarantine were in “very stable” conditions.

“As you are aware, we have so far registered 20 cases. Two have been healed and reintegrated with their families, whereas one passed away on March 31. The good news is that none of the remaining patients is in a critical condition,” said Dr Ndugulile.

Dr Ndugulile - who was speaking to The Citizen in an exclusive interview - said the measures they have taken at the ministry so far are enough to fight the outbreak. Other measures will follow - depending on developments.

“When you look at the dynamics, most Tanzanians live from hand-to-mouth, and have to leave their homes to survive. So, when you go for a total lockdown, it means some will die of hunger” at home, the deputy minister explained.

Measures they started with included strengthening preparedness to deal with the outbreak, and they are now at a good response level.

“Our preparedness and response have always been key in tackling such outbreaks. For example, during the Ebola outbreak, despite the fact that we are neighbours with countries that have been affected by the malady, Tanzania was never hit by the deadly disease,” he said.

Dr Ndugulile ruled out the possibility of conducting mass testing for the Covid-19 pandemic, saying they only take samples from patients who have shown symptoms of infection.

“When we take patients into quarantine, we closely monitor them - and it is not until they show signs of developing the disease that we take test samples.” He noted that the virus can only be beaten by observing hygienic measures such as hand-washing and social distancing.

Dr Ndugulile’s interview comes on a day when the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, described the coronavirus pandemic as humanity’s worst crisis since World War II!

The virus has so far claimed more than 30,000 lives in Europe alone.

Italy and Spain have borne the brunt of the crisis, accounting for three-in-every-four deaths in Europe as the grim tally hit another milestone even though half of the planet’s population is already under some form of lockdown in efforts to halt contagion.

Spain reported a record 864 deaths in 24 hours, pushing the country’s number of fatalities past 9,000.

The toll is only dwarfed by Italy’s, where the virus has killed nearly 12,500 people.

Since emerging in China in December 2019, Covid-19 has spread across the globe, claiming over 43,000 lives and infecting more than 860,000 people, according to an AFP tally.

President Donald Trump has warned of a “very, very painful two weeks” as the United States registered its deadliest 24 hours of what he called a “plague”.

In a scramble to halt the contagion, governments have shut schools and most shops, while ordering millions of people to work from home.

Cancellations of key events on the global calendar have swept both the sports and cultural worlds, with the Edinburgh Arts Festival being the latest to be scrapped.