Tanzania leader says virus cases down despite U.S. warning

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Tanzanian President John Magufuli has said prayers have succeeded in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, despite the American embassy recently warning that “all evidence points to exponential growth of the epidemic” in the country’s largest city.

Magufuli said during a church service Sunday that if the trend of declining cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus continues this week he will open schools, universities and sports events.

The Tanzanian government has not released any data on COVID-19 cases for more than two weeks, so there are no current figures on the number of people diagnosed with the disease, the U.S. embassy said in a health advisory released last week.

Many hospitals in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, said the strongly worded health advisory issued by the U.S. embassy on Friday.

Magufuli said charter flights fully booked with tourists were lining up to come to Tanzania because its safe. He said he had ordered the minister for wildlife and tourism not to put the tourists in quarantine and to let them in the country if their temperature is found to be normal.

“God has answered our prayers … and he should be praised for listening to us,” Magufuli said at a church service broadcast livefrom Chato town in the Geita Region of northwestern Tanzania. In mid-March he ordered three days of national prayers against COVID-19. He previously said that prayers could defeat the disease.

Magufuli had earlier said that other countries and the World Health Organization are overreacting to the disease. He said on Sunday that his son had contracted the virus and was healed at home by just drinking ginger and lemons “and now he is doing press ups.”

He said Tanzania’s economy is the first priority and the country should not agree to be ruled by the disease.

He cited infrastructure projects such as the construction of new electricity generation plants and the construction of roads. “ All these projects we are doing would have stopped. Where would we be? … If we locked down, how would we feed the people? What would they do?” he asked.

“We have decided to take this direction,” said Magufuli. “We started with God and we finish with God.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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