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Tanzania government in new strategy to contain Covid-19

Monday February 22 2021
covid pic

President John Magufuli speaking during a sunday mass at Saint Peters Catholic church in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO|STATE HOUSE

By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. The government has come up with a new set of measures in a deliberate move to contain further spread of Covid-19 amid claims of a worrying rise in deaths that are attributable to the viral pandemic.

Contrary to a widely-held government position that Tanzania was Covid-19 free, the government now wants Tanzanians to undertake eight specific measures in a deliberate move to win the war against the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from the three-day period of prayers - which ended yesterday - a statement from the Health ministry noted that Tanzanians must also subscribe to hygienic requirements as advanced by health experts.

These include frequent hand-washing with running water and soap and applying sanitizers in the absence of clean water and soap.

Reiterating that the country will not go into lockdown mode, the Health ministry wants Tanzanians to conduct physical exercises, protect the elderly; those who are obese and those with underlying health conditions.

The Health ministry says it was about time Tanzanians ate balanced diets, particularly vegetables and fruits.

Use of traditional remedies that have been registered by the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council must also be taken seriously.

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Putting on face masks and reporting to health centres after developing disease symptoms, must be observed.

“We must continue taking precautions by abiding by healthy living habits so as to prevent hazards that may weaken our body immunities….,” reads the Health ministry’s statement as signed by the head of government communications unit at the Ministry.


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JPM clarifies

Meanwhile, President John Magufuli told worshipers at the Roman Catholics’ St Peter’s Parish in Dar es Salaam that Tanzanians should continue taking precautions against coronavirus as advised by health experts.

He also stated that the government hasn’t prohibited the use of face masks in the war against Covid-19 - stressing however that locally made masks - especially those from the Medical Stores Department (MSD) - must be used.

“President Magufuli has insisted on the use of traditional methods in containing respiratory diseases, including applying steaming and avoiding fear which has more impacts,” reads part of the statement signed by the director of presidential communications, Mr Gerson Msigwa.

He reiterated that Tanzanians must continue to put their trust in God.


Masks and more masks

On Saturday, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa explained that it was imperative for people to put on masks in order to protect themselves from infectious diseases especially where social distancing can’t be observed.

Speaking during the Requiem Mass for the fallen Chief Secretary John Kijazi in Korogwe District, Tanga Region, Mr Majaliwa said masks were to be worn when social distancing couldn’t be observed. “It is important that everyone takes the necessary precautions,” said the premier, noting that the government was investigating to establish the safety of imported masks before allowing approving them for public use.


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Robust action

Yesterday, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) called upon Tanzania to take “robust action” to combat Covid-19. WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that a number of Tanzanians travelling to neighbouring countries and beyond have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This underscores the need for Tanzania to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect the population beyond,” he said in a statement.

Tedros said he had urged Tanzania in late January to take measures against the pandemic and to prepare for vaccinations.

“Since then I have spoken with several authorities in Tanzania but WHO is yet to receive any information regarding what measures Tanzania is taking to respond to the pandemic….This situation remains very concerning. I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases and share data,” he said, adding.

“I also call on Tanzania to implement the public health measures that we know work in breaking the chains of transmission, and to prepare for vaccination.”

He said Tanzania last gave case figures in April 2020, reporting 509 infections.


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Bishops warn

On January 26, the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) issued a statement reminding its faithful to take precautionary measures against a possible new wave of coronavirus infections.

TEC President Archbishop Gervas Nyaisonga said in the statement that religious leaders should remind worshippers to step up protection measures against coronavirus, warning of a new wave of the disease.

He said many countries had witnessed deaths to the tune of thousands of people due to the pandemic, saying Tanzania was not an Island.

“We have every reason to take precaution and pray to God that the pandemic does not overwhelm our country,” he said.

Dar es Salaam’s Archbishop Yuda Thadei Ruwaichi said people should protect themselves through frequent hand washing with soap and running water and wearing face masks because the disease existed in Tanzania.

Speaking to priests on Saturday, Archbishop Ruwaichi thanked those were responsible, showing care and accountability in fighting Covid-19 infections by putting on masks and challenged those who didn’t to protect themselves and others by wearing masks.

He said Tanzania was passing through difficult moments of infections, saying people were dying while many more were suffering in hospitals.

“Early last year the government, clerics leaders and healthcare workers spoke the same language regarding Covid-19 prevention and precaution measures, but later, we ended up taking different stands as some said the country was free from the disease. This resulted into negligence as others stopped adhering to prevention measures,” he said. “I invite you to respect your life and those of others. Nobody should be infected or die because of my negligence.”


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Medics’ worry

Tanzania Medical Association (MAT) president Shadrack Mwaibambe said several challenges existed in the health sector, saying however that they would not be addressed in a single day.

However, he said the challenges that subjected health of doctors at risk must be addressed with care by responsible authorities, arguing them to adhere to the oath of professionalism and continue attending and taking care of patients regardless of race, ethnicity or type of diseases they are suffering.

“In preventing outbreaks, especially new epidemics, no country is 100 percent sure of its approach. Every country is trying its best level to find a way to understand the disease in consideration of the way of life that its people live,” he said.

He urged the doctors to use science, which is effective and reliable, as well as educate Tanzanians to visit healthcare centres as soon as they develop symptoms, allay fears and abstain from unnecessary gatherings. “Instead, they should wash their hands, wear masks, uphold small numbers at funerals as well as adhere to all other directives issued by the ministry and other health stakeholders,” he said.


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Photo @ DW

Lawyers’ call

Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) president Rugemeleza Nshala called on the government to declare the presence of Covid-19 in the country and impose mandatory preventive measures as the Bar Association mourns the loss of 25 lawyers by Friday. He said according to Section 4 of the TLS Act, the bar association was obliged to provide legal advice to the Executive, Parliament, the Judiciary and public and that denying presence of Covid-19 in the country contravenes Article 18 (d) of the Union Constitution.

“Denying presence of disease will not permanently address the challenge, rather expertise is required to establish cause of the problem, the magnitude, effects and mitigation measures,” he said. The Bar association asked the court to preside over cases online, grant bail to more suspects to reduce congestion in cells and prisons, suspend some sentences, charge fines and convict some suspects into community services.

The Parliament should instruct the government to submit official reports on the status of the epidemics including statistics on the trend, patients, deaths, survivors and taken mitigation measures.

“The government should ensure congestion is controlled on public commuters, sports and cultural activities. Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) should be made available to healthcare workers who take care of the lives of patients,” he said.

Dr Nshala said the issue of vaccines shouldn’t be taken politically, branding as ‘non-patriots’ those questioning the substances because people in other countries are being vaccinated without showing the negative effect of the chemicals.

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