According to the Associated Press, the country’s number of confirmed virus cases hasn’t changed for three weeks, and just over 500 cases have been reported in a country of nearly 60 million people.
Reportedly, President Magufuli has refused to shut churches, mosques and other gathering places, such as pubs and restaurants.
In March, Magufuli ordered three days of national prayers against COVID-19 and has since said they have been answered.
“God has answered our prayers… and he should be praised for listening to us,”
Magufuli said at a church service broadcast live from Chato town in the Geita Region of northwestern Tanzania.
He said Tanzania’s economy was the first priority and the country should not agree to be ruled by the disease.
“We have decided to take this direction,” said Magufuli. “We started with God and we finish with God.”
Rather than urge Tanzanians to keep their distance, one Magufuli ally encouraged them to flood the streets this weekend to celebrate.
“Make all kinds of noise as a sign of thanksgiving to show our God has won against disease and worries of death that were making us suffer,”
Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner of the commercial hub Dar es Salaam, said at a news briefing.
While Magufuli halted international passenger flights in April, he is now allowing them to resume, and says any visitor who doesn’t have a fever will be allowed in.
The president has argued that if restrictive measures are adopted, Tanzanians may have nothing to eat.
While many African countries have been praised for their response to the coronavirus, Tanzania is the most dramatic exception, run by a president who questions — or fires — his own health experts and has refused to limit people’s movements, saying the economy is the priority.
He has also questioned the accuracy of tests done by the national laboratory, saying the swabs used may themselves be tainted with the virus.
Opposition leaders and human rights groups have, however, accused Magufuli’s government of hiding the outbreak’s true toll.
In response, President Magufuli has led a crackdown on anyone who dares raise concerns about the virus’s spread in his country or the government’s response to it. Critics have been getting arrested, while opposition politicians and rights activists claim their phones were being tapped.
Human rights activist and former president of the Tanganyika Law Society, Fatma Karume, said authorities were discouraging people from going to hospitals to avoid overwhelming them, and that they were not giving adequate guidance about the virus which was first discovered in Wuhan, China last year.
But government spokesman Hassan Abbas told The Associated Press that it would be impossible to cover up an outbreak, as well as dismissed reports that hospitals were overwhelmed.
“It is unfortunate that COVID-19 has come up with lots of misinformation, propaganda and false news,” he added.
He said Tanzania had taken measures to curb the disease, and infection rates were falling, though he gave no data.
Meanwhile, there have been calls by political and religious leaders in the West to open places of worship as a means to combat the pandemic.
Last week, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, declared the opening of all worship centres across the country, labelling them as “essential places that provide essential services”.
“Today I am identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques, as essential places that provide essential services,”
Trump said in a White House briefing.
The move, the president added, was a form of correctional justice as some governors in the US were deeming liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship.
“It’s not right,” Trump said.
“I call upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open right now. The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend.
If they do not do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump concluded.
The United States of America remains the most badly hit by this global pandemic and the opening of churches is a very timely call by the President.
Globally, more than 343,500 people have died from COVID-19, while some 5.4 million infections have been confirmed in at least 188 countries and territories.
More than 2 million people have recovered to date.
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