As Tanzania begins negotiations over potential debt relief as part of a G-20 program to help out the poorest nations, President John Magufuli proclaimed this week that his country has been rendered "coronavirus free" thanks to the power of prayer.
We reported a few weeks back that Magufuli had kicked out representatives from the WHO (after purportedly tricking them into testing samples of a papaya for COVID-19), drawing criticism from several of its neighbors. He also claimed a mixture of ginger and lemonade cured his son of the virus.
Tanzania's number of COVID-19 cases has been stuck at 509 for six weeks as the country stopped updating its numbers. Opposition politicians claim the true number is closer to 10k.
Magufuli has accused his opponents of exaggerating the impact of the virus as part of a conspiracy to drive him from power. But like Zika before it, the coronavirus has come and gone, he said, vanquished during 'three days of prayer'.
“When I came to power they said we have cases of the Zika virus and I fired the person who announced that ... Since I fired him five years ago, Tanzania has not had cases of Zika,” Magufuli said at a teachers' conference Friday in the capital, Dodoma.
“Then they said we have Ebola knowing that tourists will not come to a country which has Ebola and people will not work here if there is Ebola,” he said, adding that no one had died of that virus.
"Now we have corona. They said bodies will be lying on streets in Africa. But they did not know God loves Tanzania," Magufuli said. "We prayed for three days and the coronavirus is finished."
Opposition lawmakers meanwhile have accused the president of "de-congesting" hospitals to make the problem seem less serious.