Tanzania's new president changes policy on COVID-19, media

Tanzania’s new president appears to be taking a new, scientific approach to combat the infectious-disease pandemic.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Tuesday she will form a technical committee to advise her about the scope of COVID-19 infections in the country in the east of world-regions and how to respond to the pandemic.

COVID-19 is “not something we should be quiet about or refuse flatly or accept without doing a scientific examination,” Hassan said in Swahili.

We will do medical research which will tell us the scope of the problem and advise us about what the world is recommending as well as our own expertise,” she said.

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Hassan, made the remarks that were broadcast live, after swearing key government officers in a hall in State House, the president’s official residence in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. More than 100 top government officials were present, most of whom did not wear face masks or keep a distance from each other.

Hassan’s comments are a dramatic switch from the policy of her predecessor, the late President John Magufuli, who was one of Africa’s leading COVID-19 deniers. He claimed in June last year that Tanzania had rid itself of COVID-19 through three days of national prayer. He dismissed scientific approaches to prevent and treat the disease. He discouraged the use of face masks and instead promoted prayer, physical fitness and herbal remedies.

Magufuli’s government fired officials who gave other opinions and some were arrested.

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 16, 2021, file photo, Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan speaks during a tour of the Tanga region of Tanzania.  (AP Photo/File)

FILE – In this Tuesday, March 16, 2021, file photo, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan speaks during a tour of the Tanga region of Tanzania.  (AP Photo/File)

Hassan was in her second term as vice president when Magufuli dropped out of public view at the end of February. The populist president was not seen in public for 19 days, raising speculation that he was sick with COVID-19. Hassan announced Magufuli’s death on March 17, saying it was due to heart-health” target=”_blank”>heart failure<

Rights groups have said that since 2015, Tanzania’s government has stepped up censorship by banning or suspending at least six newspapers for content deemed critical. They include Tanzania’s major English-language daily newspaper, The Citizen.

FILE - In this Saturday, July 11, 2015 file photo, Tanzania's then public works minister and presidential candidate John Magufuli speaks at an internal party poll to decide the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party's presidential candidate, which they later chose him to be, in Dodoma, Tanzania. (AP Photo/Khalfan Said, File)

FILE – In this Saturday, July 11, 2015 file photo, Tanzania’s then public works minister and presidential candidate John Magufuli speaks at an internal party poll to decide the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party’s presidential candidate, which they later chose him to be, in Dodoma, Tanzania. (AP Photo/Khalfan Said, File)

Last year Magufuli’s government suspended a newspaper associated with one of the country’s leading opposition politicians, Freeman Mbowe.

Authorities used the 2015 Cybercrimes Act to prosecute journalists and activists for social media posts, the rights group have said.

Tanzania’s government also controls independent research and public access to independent statistical information using the 2015 Statistics Act, denying citizens alternative sources of independently verified information, the reports said.

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