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UPDATE 2-WHO says still has no details from Tanzania COVID-19 response

·2 min read

(Adds comment by Tanzanian president Magufuli)

NAIROBI, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The head of the World HealthOrganization urged Tanzania on Sunday to share information onits measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, saying theauthorities there had repeatedly ignored his requests.

President John Magufuli's sceptical approach towardsCOVID-19 has caused alarm among WHO officials. A governmentspokesman told Reuters on Feb.12 that Tanzania had "controlled"the outbreak, but it stopped reporting new coronavirusinfections and deaths in May last year. At the time it hadregistered 509 cases and 21 deaths.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said onSunday that Tanzanians testing positive for COVID-19 abroadunderscored "the need for Tanzania to take robust action both tosafeguard their own people and protect populations in thesecountries and beyond."

Tedros also repeated a call he made with Matshidiso Moeti,WHO's Africa head, in late January for Tanzania to bolsterpublic health measures against COVID-19 and prepare todistribute vaccines.

He added that since then he had spoken with severalauthorities there to no avail.

"This situation remains very concerning. I renew my call forTanzania to start reporting COVID-19 cases and share data,"Tedros said in a statement on WHO's website.

Tanzania government spokesman Hassan Abbasi did not respondto a Reuters message seeking comment on Tedros' remarks.

In a statement later on Sunday, Magufuli's office said thepresident wanted Tanzanians to follow measures to protectthemselves against coronavirus. However, it also said that:

"Magufuli wants Tanzanians to ... trust and put God first,given that wearing masks, social distancing and lockdowns havebeen seen to be insufficient as countries that implemented themhave lost thousands compared to Tanzania."

Magufuli attended a funeral service on Friday for a seniorofficial in his office whose cause of death was not made public,and declared three days of national prayer.

On Sunday, Magufuli said Tanzanians should wear only uselocally-made face masks, saying foreign-made ones may be unsafe.

On Monday, Oman's health minister said his country wasconsidering suspending flights from Tanzania, after 18% oftravellers arriving from Tanzania tested positive for COVID-19.

Thailand reported on Monday its first case of the highlycontagious COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa, ina Thai man who arrived from Tanzania.(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by George Obulutsa andRaissa Kasolowsky)