Tanzania reviews travel advisory amid fears of importing Covid-19 cases

Professor Mabula Mchembe

Dar es Salaam. The government reviewed its advisory on international travel on Wednesday, August 05, 2020 in a deliberate move to accommodate additional measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus from other countries.

An earlier version, section 2 of the Travel Advisory No. 4 issued over two weeks ago, did not accommodate airline or country of origin requirements, in its wording.

It only stated that travelers from other countries or returning residents were required to present a valid negative Covid-19 certificate from an approved laboratory in a departure country, tested within 72 hours before travel. There was also no mention of what countries of origin demanded.

However, the same section of the latest advisory has specifically addressed airlines and countries of origin, saying, “All travelers whether foreigners or returning residents whose countries or airlines require them to get tested for Covid-19 and turn negative as a condition for traveling will be required to present a certificate upon arrival.”

The specific time of taking a Covid-19 test for the certificate and whether the testing laboratory of the original country must be approved or not has been dropped in the updated advisory released yesterday by the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children.

What necessitated the changes, however, was not explained by the ministry when approached by The Citizen to clarify.  The Chief Medical Officer, Prof Abel Makubi said the ministry would give clarifications today (Thursday).

“We will speak to the media tomorrow (Thursday) and address all issues,” said Prof Makubi, declining to go into details.

The ministry said in its advisory signed by the Permanent Secretary Professor Mabula Mchembe that despite the opening of public and private schools and  resumption  of sports activities, the situation has remained safe but stated, “…there is a likelihood of importation of cases from other countries.”

Until May 18, Tanzania had recorded 509 cases of Covid-19, with 21 deaths but for months there has been no public update of test results or number of deaths. Globally, there are 18 354 342cases in the world and 696 147 confirmed deaths as per World Health Organisation(WHO) data.

However, Prof Mcembe said in the advisory statement, “After  reviewing  the  current  situation  of Covid-19  infection  in  the country, we have observed a decreasing trend of admitted Covid-19 cases as evidenced    by    the    closure    of    Covid-19    Isolation/Treatment Centres.”

Further changes show that contrary to the earlier version, section 2 of the new travel advisory has also stated the type of screening that Covid-19 suspects from other countries will be subjected to.

“Travelers from other countries with symptoms and signs related to COVID-19 infection will undergo enhanced screening and may be tested for RT-PCR,” said the new advisory.  The RT-PCR test was not stated in July.

“Crew members shall not be subjected to present a negative test COVID-19 certificate as a condition of entry or departure,” said the new advisory in section 3. However, it explained, the crew members will be screened for symptoms and signs in line with the country's protocol.

 Other measures related to adherence   to   Infection Prevention and Control(IPC) measures such as hand hygiene, wearing masks and keeping physical distancing as appropriate remain unchanged, as well as measures  relating to truck/vehicle carrying goods and services have not been changed in the latest advisory.