Tanzanian minister coughs through press conference aimed at defusing Covid fears

The opposition leader condemns the government’s ‘recklessness’ over Covid

Clea Skopeliti
Thursday 25 February 2021 12:21
Comments
<p>The press conference backfired as the finance minister broke into a coughing fit</p>

The press conference backfired as the finance minister broke into a coughing fit

A Tanzanian minister coughed and gasped throughout a press conference aimed at announcing he is in good health, following his hospitalisation that led to false reports that he had died of Covid-19.

Rumours of finance minister Philip Mpango’s death come amid a spate of high profile fatalities from the disease in the east African country that has consistently downplayed the spread of the coronavirus.

Seif Sharif Hamad, one of Tanzania’s most prominent politicians and a former vice president of Zanzibar, died after contracting the virus last week. The country’s Covid-denying president John Magufuli’s chief secretary also died in recent days, though the government has not confirmed his cause of death.

In an attempt to dispel rumours about himself, Mr Mpango hosted a press conference from outside a hospital in the capital Dodoma where he had been a patient for two weeks. He was clearly in poor health, breaking into fits of coughing and gasping for air as told a group of reporters that “his health has improved” in recent days.

The minister was not wearing a face covering as he spluttered through the announcement, with a doctor and hospital director on either side of him – both also maskless. He did not discuss his ailment instead offering condolences over the recent deaths, which he attributed to “pneumonia” and “respiratory challenges”.

While coronavirus deaths across the African continent passed the grim milestone of 100,000 last week – which experts believe is far below than the real figure – the nation of 60 million people continues to maintain that it has only suffered 21 deaths and 509 cases. Meanwhile, Kenya, which has a comparable population, has recorded 104,000 infections and nearly 2,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

The scene outside the hospital was met with anger on social media, with the the leader of the opposition, Tundu Lissu condemning the minister’s “recklessness”.

“Has the intelligence of our leaders reached this level? Who allowed this patient to cough on people, instead of being in hospital for treatment or bed rest?” he wrote on Twitter. “What kind of doctor is this who was coughed on without [a] mask? What are you trying to prove by this recklessness?”

The government has recently back-pedalled on its claims that the virus has been defeated by prayer after months of maintaining the party line. On Sunday, the premier issued a lukewarm appeal to citizens, advising them to take precautions and even wear face masks (but only those made locally). It came as World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged Tanzania to take “robust action” against the virus.

Tanzania stopped publishing data on the toll of the virus in May 2020, with Mr Magufuli casting doubt on the reliability of testing and instead encouraging Tanzanians to pray. The health ministry has also promoted the use of unproven natural remedies, such as ginger. The president claimed last June that the virus, which has killed at least 2.5 million people globally, had been eradicated in Tanzania through prayer.

The United States and Oman have banned citizens from travelling to the country in recent days, while neighbouring Kenya has barred its athletes from competing in Tanzania’s marathon due to concerns over its handling of the pandemic

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in