Tanzania’s new president appears to be taking a new scientific approach to combat the coronavirus epidemic.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Tuesday that she would set up a technical committee to advise her on the extent of COVID-19 infection in eastern Africa and how to respond to the epidemic.
COVID-19 “is not something that we should quietly or reject or accept without scientific scrutiny,” Hassan said in Swahili.
We will conduct medical research that tells the extent of the problem and makes recommendations about what the world is suggesting as well as our own expertise, ”she said.
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Hassan made the remarks televised after swearing to key government officials in the hall of the State House, the president̵7;s official home in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. There are more than 100 senior government officials, many of whom do not wear masks or are spaced apart.
Hassan’s comments are a shift away from policies of late President John Makufuli, one of Africa’s leading COVID-19 deniers. He claimed in June last year that Tanzania had eliminated COVID-19 itself through a three-day national prayer. He stopped using scientific methods for the prevention and treatment of disease. He does not advocate the use of face masks and instead promotes prayer, physical fitness, and herbal healing.
The Magufuli government fired officers who made other comments, and some were arrested.
Hassan was on her second term as vice president when Magufuli fell out of public view in late February. No one saw the populist president in public for 19 days, making speculation he was ill with COVID-19.Hassan announced Magufuli’s death on March 17, saying it was due to heart failure.
She made history when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president on March 19.
Tanzania’s opposition leader has charged Magufuli, 61, of the death of COVID-19, a disease he has reduced.
Magufuli warned Tanzanians against vaccination against the disease. Instead, he promoted international trade and tourism, instead of trying to avoid the economic pain of neighboring countries that imposed curbing and curfews and restrictions on international travel. He refused to ban public gatherings.
In her speech Tuesday to the country, Hassan also ordered the media bureau that was closed during her previous rule to reopen. She also called on regional officials to promote freedom of expression so that members of the public express their condolences without being intimidated.
“I have heard some media, mobile television is banned, I want those media to be allowed to work. But according to the laws of this country, there is no need for them to be happy to say that we are cracking down on freedom of the press, ”Hassan said.
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Human rights groups say that since 2015, the Tanzanian government has increased censorship by banning or suspending at least six newspapers for content it considers important. Includes Tanzania’s main English-language daily newspaper, The Citizen.
Last year, Magufuli’s government suspended a newspaper associated with one of the country’s leading opposition politicians, Freeman Mbowe.
Authorities have used the 2015 Cyber Crime Act to prosecute journalists and activists who post social media.
Tanzania’s government also regulates independent research and public access to independent statistical data using the 2015 Statistics Act, denying alternative sources that are independently verified by the public.