Follow

Surprise change as country adopts scientific approach to handle Covid

By Mathew Ndungu
Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
Tanzania President Samia Suluhu inspects a guard of honour mounted by the Kenya Defence Forces at State House, Nairobi. Photo/PSCU
In summary

President Samia Suluhu Hassan has taken a new scientific approach to tackle Covid-19 pandemic, unlike her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli who had denied the existence of the disease.

In her latest documented policy, Suluhu has directed stiffer scrutiny of all persons entering Tanzania at all entry points and heightened enforcement of Covid-19 containment protocols.

In a travel advisory dated May 3 and signed by Health Permanent Secretary Abel N Makubi, the country seems to have made a surprise change in its official stand on Coronavirus, now ordering authorities at all points of entry to enforce all the standard protocols including enhancing hygiene, using sanitisers and wearing masks.

Suluhu has also been urging Tanzanian citizens to take precautions against the deadly virus – hand washing, wearing of masks and social distancing.

Deadly diseases

During his tenure, Magufuli who died in March, had cautioned the country’s Health ministry against rushing into embracing the Covid vaccines promoted by foreign companies and countries.

Magufuli cast hesitation on the global urge to develop the virus vaccine claiming that little had been done to help treat other deadly diseases such as HIV-Aids, tuberculosis, malaria among others.

He had in a long-time downplayed the severity of the pandemic urging Tanzanian citizens to pray, use steam inhalation and embrace local, traditional medicines to protect themselves from the virus.

But President Suluhu in the new directives, all travelers will henceforth be required to ‘truthfully’ fill in an online travel surveillance form before arrival to Tanzania. 

All travelers, both citizens of Tanzania and foreigners will further be required to present a negative Covid-19 test certificate upon arrival.

“The test should be based on Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction using samples collected within 72 hours before arrival to Tanzania,” Makubi stated in the directives.

The travellers will additionally be subjected to enhanced screening for Covid-19 infection including a rapid test to those arriving from countries with a higher number of Covid-19 cases.

“All travelers whether foreign or returning residents arriving from countries with new Covid-19 variants based on the World Health WHO daily updates or those who have travelled through those countries in the last 14 days regardless of route taken shall be subjected to rapid test at point of entry followed by 14 days mandatory quarantine at their own cost,” further stated the new directives.

Suluhu who took over from her former boss has changed tact in handling the crisis that has increasingly resulted in economic downfalls across the globe, now even ordering residents who had travelled overseas to isolate themselves when they return home.

The first Tanzanian woman president who is in Kenya for a two-day state visit to Nairobi, her first since she took over the presidency has also outlined measures to enhance awareness about the deadly virus to not only avert infections but also possible deaths.

Point of entry

In the directives, her government seeks to provide health information cards with toll free numbers and advises self-monitoring for symptoms and signs.

All international travellers visiting the country will as well be required to adhere to infection prevention and control measures with all the conveyances being subjected to decontamination at point of entry.

To show her seriousness in the fight against the pandemic, Suluhu’s government has also ordered that only two to three crew members will be allowed to be onboard each vehicle to facilitate smooth border crossing in the region.

The Tanzanian government is enforcing the new measures at a time that President Suluhu is in Kenya, a country that has been strictly enforcing all the stipulated Covid-19 rules.

The country stopped releasing infection numbers in April 2020, weeks before the former president declared the country coronavirus-free in June.