Tanzania reports over 280 new Corona cases for the first time after 14 months of silence, denial

Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima

AMIDST the exponentially growing risk of COVID-19 cases in Tanzania, the government has released figures on Coronavirus today, confirming 408 patients in hospital beds since a third wave of infections began early last month.

Major cities of the East African country – which had previously denied the existence of the Coronavirus – are seemingly overwhelmed, and it is clear that the chance of contracting the virus is extremely high as many people do not seem to adhere to the World Health Organization (WHO) directives.

Describing the prevalence of the pandemic in its third wave, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said that as of July 8, 2021, a total of 284 out of 408 patients had been hospitalised with breathing difficulties, hence, needing the assistance of oxygen concentrators.

The release of the figures comes after 14 months following a ban by then President John Magufuli on publicising any COVIS-19 related data on the grounds that God had saved the country from the pandemic after three days of public prayers. Unfortunately, he eventually succumbed to the same on 17th March 2021.

The city of Dodoma has 26 hospitalised patients, 22 of whom are breathing with the support of oxygen cylinders. Gwajima insisted that, so far, no COVID-19 deaths have been recorded at Benjamin Mkapa Hospital. 

Although Gwajima did not provide statistics in other areas, reports reaching SAUTI KUBWA indicate that there are many patients who use respiratory aids at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam; the Bugando Zonal Referral Hospital in Mwanza; the KCMC in Moshi, and in other major hospitals.

Early this week, the Bugando Zonal Referral Hospital reported that there was a shortage of oxygen concentrators. So, it needed at least 500 cylinders to support COVID-19 patients who were being continually admitted at the health facility. One day after her announcement, the referral hospital received 300 cylinders from the Medical Stores Department (MSD).

In those major cities, although the government has not provided any concrete information, there has been a growing number of deaths since the end of May, 2021. They are related to the spread of the third wave variant of COVID-19.

Tanzania will spend $470 million in buying vaccines and supporting economic sectors hit hard by the Coronavirus, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said recently.

Half of the cash will be spent on vaccines, protective gear and other medical equipment; with the rest going to stimulate sectors that are reeling from the crisis, she said.

President Samia has not yet announced when the vaccine will arrive, but she said Tanzania has joined the COVAX facility that sends doses to lower-income countries.

U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Donald Wright, in a message on his Twitter account, welcomed Samia’s intent to buy vaccines and signaled that the U.S. is ready to help. 

Since Samia took office in March 2021, the government has changed track from playing down the pandemic to calling for social distancing, regular washing of hands and emphasising mask wearing in public.

The government, however, has not yet done enough to encourage the public to respect the principles of pandemic containment, especially the principle of social distancing.

Given the worsening situation and the growing threat of infection and death, Buchosa MP, Eric Shigongo, yesterday advised the government to ban all public rallies to save citizens and the country from the worst effects of COVID-19. 

“We are losing the lives of too many people. Large public gatherings should be stopped immediately, the situation is not worsening,” said Shigongo, and asked rhetorically:  

“With so many cases of COVID-19 amid numerous music concerts, public rallies, and congested public transportation, are we really serious?”

Despite a slow move, Samia’s Tanzania is taking many right decisions in studying and containing the pandemic. Her first four months in office have been positively promising in the regard.