"This situation remains very concerning. I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting COVID-19 cases and share data. 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 wrote.
Why it matters: WHO statements targeting specific countries are rare.
The Tanzanian government stopped reporting cases of COVID-19 to WHO in May 2020 and President John Magufuli has denied the presence of the virus in the country and warned against the use of vaccines, suggesting Tanzanians would be used as guinea pigs. While the country is eligible to receive donated vaccines from the COVAX Facility, it has not taken steps to receive doses.
This lack of control of the pandemic is spilling over. Tanzanian travelers to neighboring countries and elsewhere are testing positive for COVID-19, according to the statement.
Last week, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, vice-president of Tanzania's semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar, died from COVID-19. The head of the civil service, John Kijazi, died the same day, but the cause of death was not made public.
On Feb. 10, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania warned of a “significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases” in the country.
What’s next: Following WHO’s statement, Magufuli encouraged people to wear masks on Sunday, despite previous statements discouraging their use. While he previously declared Tanzania COVID-19 free, on Friday Magafuli suggested the virus was circulating in the country but called for prayer rather than lockdowns as the solution.
WHO said it “stands ready” to support the country in its pandemic response.