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Cartoon: Tanzanian President John Magufuli and COVID-19 denialism

For months Tanzania’s government has insisted the country was free from COVID-19, so there are no plans for vaccination. As other African countries are beginning to rollout vaccination programmes there is little testing and no clear plans for a vaccination programme in Tanzania.

Last year, Tanzanian President John Magufuli declared the country “COVID-19 free” and he and many other top government officials mocked the efficacy of masks, doubting if testing works. They teased neighbouring countries which imposed health measures to curb the spread of the virus.

A number of African countries including Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa went into partial lockdown to contain the transmission of COVID-19. The restrictions included, closure of national borders, curfew or home confinement, geographic containment, prohibition of gatherings and the closure of establishments and premises among other measures. However, Tanzania had a unique approach, and the government refused to impose a lockdown and movement was relaxed.

As other African countries are beginning to rollout vaccination programmes there is little testing and no clear plans for a vaccination in Tanzania. The government’s COVID-19 vaccine reluctance has been a major topic of discussion, and a concern for citizens.

The fear is that amidst the denialism, and vaccine reluctance there are going to be many victims of the virus.

The series is a creative storytelling collaboration between This is Africa and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

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