Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, emphasized the importance of face masks in the battle against Covid-19 on Friday, abandoning one of her late coronavirus-skeptic predecessor’s most contentious initiatives.
Samia Suluhu Hassan was elected in March after the death of John Magufuli. The latter had encouraged Tanzanians to avoid wearing masks and rejected vaccinations as a Western hoax, much to the chagrin of the World Health Organization.
Did Tanzania’s Covid-denying chief pass away because of the Coronavirus? This is one of the many questions he left unanswered.
She formed a committee last month to investigate whether Tanzania, which stopped disclosing coronavirus data under Magufuli, should take the path that the rest of the world has followed in dealing with the pandemic.
Hassan addressed influential neighborhood leaders in Dar es Salaam on Friday, wearing a face mask, and accompanied by senior government and security officials, many of whom were still wearing masks.
“We have come with face masks because elders are in a group of people who are at higher risk of contracting the prevailing disease,” she said. “We have found it is important to protect you.”
Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima was among those present, and when Magufuli was president, she advised Tanzanians to use steam inhalation, conventional remedies, and even vegetable smoothies to shield themselves from Covid-19.
Magufuli died in March, after weeks of rumors that he was suffering from Covid-19.