Even after the death of former President John Magufuli, the Tanzanian government does not publish up-to-date figures on the incidence of COVID-19 in Tanzania. We have summarised what is known so far and why Zanzibar is almost unaffected by the tourism crisis in our journal.
Little Information on the COVID-19 Pandemic in Tanzania
The German Foreign Office continues to classify Tanzania as a high incidence area and advises against unnecessary travel. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been notified of 509 confirmed coronavirus infections, including 21 deaths (as of 28 April 2021, source: WHO). These figures on the COVID-19 situation in Tanzania were last released by the government in early May 2020, and there have been no publications since then. There is therefore no reliable information on the current infection and vaccination situation against the coronavirus. Testing continues to be sporadic and results are not disclosed.
Tanzania Under the Leadership of a COVID-19 Denier
Tanzania’s former president, John Magufuli, doubted the existence of the coronavirus. Even before his sudden death on 17 March 2021, Magufuli suspended first his health minister and later the director of the national laboratory.
Instead of hygiene and protective measures, Magufuli recommended medicinal herbs, steam baths, and prayers. The populist head of state was considered one of the best-known COVID-19 deniers in Africa. It was only after the vice president of Zanzibar passed away due to a corona virus infection that Magufuli called for the wearing of domestically produced face masks.
Change of Power and Possible U-Turn in Corona Policy
Magufuli’s successor, former Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced a change of course. She wants to form a committee of experts to have the COVID-19 pandemic professionally and scientifically assessed. She will discuss the next steps with the government on the basis of these findings. Africa’s currently only female head of government also signalled that she could envisage cooperation with foreign countries to fight the pandemic.
Popular Holiday Destination Despite COVID-19
Many foreigners living in countries with stricter infection control measures long for freedom, carefreeness, and normality. Tanzania became a popular destination for those who want to forget about the pandemic for a while or deny it altogether due to the relaxed Tanzanian approach to COVID-19.
Entry Requirements to Tanzania
Entry to Tanzania is possible without any restrictions, even a negative COVID-19 test is not required. Only the body temperature is measured to check on fever signs. When leaving the country, some airlines require a negative COVID-19 test. As Tanzania is still considered a risk area in Germany, there is a testing and quarantine obligation when entering the country from Tanzania.
Zanzibar: Escape from the Lockdown
Zanzibar is a group of islands off the coast of East Africa and belongs to Tanzania. It is considered a beach paradise for tourists. The archipelago is massively promoted by the Tanzanian government as a supposedly Coronavirus-free holiday destination. For this reason, Zanzibar is experiencing a real tourism boom at the time of the pandemic; most resorts are fully booked. The locals, who depend on tourism, are especially happy about this. Many of the tourists come from Russia and Eastern Europe, some also from Germany. They want to escape the lockdown with the accompanying restrictions and have usually booked for several weeks.
Similar to the Tanzanian mainland, there are no health and security standards at the airport when entering Zanzibar. Neither are negative COVID-19 tests required, nor is there a quarantine obligation. Health forms do not have to be filled out either. (Sources include Tagesschau.de, ZDF)
New COVID-19 Mutations from Tanzania
New scientific findings show the dangers this entails. According to media reports, a new coronavirus variant from Tanzania has been discovered (sources include Pharmazeutische Zeitung, ZDF). It has appeared in travellers from Tanzania to Angola. It is still unclear what effects the variant will have. Tanzania’s neighbouring countries are now monitoring the situation more closely.