Magufuli's bold plan to reopen colleges

Monday May 18 2020
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Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli speaks during a press conference at State House Nairobi, Kenya, on October 31, 2016. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP

By BERNADINE MUTANU

Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli on Sunday said he was ready to open schools, sports leagues and airlines as the country continues to fight coronavirus.

Speaking at a church function in Geita, Chato, Dr Magufuli said Covid-19 cases in the East African nation had declined and there was no point of continuing with the restrictions.

“If the trend continues like this, I plan to reopen schools so that our children can continue to learn. I plan to let sports continue because it is part of entertainment for Tanzanians,” he said.

Dr Magufuli said he had allowed airlines to start their operations in Tanzania, some of which had been fully booked up to August.

He assured visitors that they will not be put on mandatory quarantine once they jet into the country.

In a statement, he said that as of Sunday, there were 144 Covid-19 patients in different hospitals and provinces.

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He, however, did not state the number of those who had died or recovered, and the number of tests done.

“We have had other viral diseases like HIV and measles and we have not allowed them to rule us. Our economy is number one and if it is interfered with, we will not be able pay salaries,” he said.

TRUCK DRIVERS

This is despite neighbours Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda closing their borders to control the spread of the virus.

On Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta closed Kenya’s borders with Tanzania and Somalia to all automobiles, except trucks ferrying goods, when it became evident that truck drivers from Tanzania were bringing the disease into Kenya.

“Our economy is doing well; we must continue working; there is no lockdown in Tanzania. When they finish locking down themselves, they will come we give them food,” said President Magufuli.

However, he said Tanzania is still collaborating with other East African countries, and those in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), on development matters.

“We should not discriminate them ... everyone has a different way of solving issues. You will find truck drivers getting blocked to go to some places. But I said I will not lock our borders,” he said.

The Tanzanian leader has been on the spot because of the casual manner in which he has dealt with the pandemic.

OBEY PRECAUTIONS

He confessed that one of his children contracted the disease but he isolated, steamed himself and took a concoction of ginger and lemon and has since recovered.

“The disease will spread, but finally it will stop. Life must continue. Fear is a bigger disease than corona. We may have people who have died because of fear and not corona,” he added.

He downplayed testing of corpses for the disease, directing that the dead be interred as before. Covid-19, he argued, is not Ebola and cautioned against discrimination of patients.

Dr Magufuli, however, directed Tanzanians to follow set guidelines in combating the disease, despite the fact that no one was wearing a mask in the congregation he was addressing and there was no social distancing.

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