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Tanzania Covid-19 coronavirusCovid-19 in Tanzania

From 3rd January 2020 to 24 January 2022, there have been 32,392 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Tanzania, with 753 deaths. As of 28 December 2021, a total of 2,431,769 vaccine doses have been administered.

Tanzania adheres to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and protocols in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is continuing its campaign to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Evolution of Tanzania’s Strategy on Covid-19

The Tanzanian government has stopped releasing aggregate numbers on Covid-19 cases or deaths in April 2020, when it informed the public of 509 positive cases, 21 deaths, and 183 recoveries. Since then, Tanzania’s late President John Magufuli declared the country Covid-free and did not implement any curfew or confinement measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, the newly appointed President Samia Suluhu Hassan has reversed Magufuli’s denialism of the pandemic and formed a team of specialists to monitor and provide professional advice on what has to be done to curb the pandemic in Tanzania. In June 2021, President Hassan announced that Tanzania will spend USD 470 million on vaccines, protective gear, and other medical equipment, and support economic sectors hardly affected by the pandemic. The same month, the government has then started sharing data again. In July 2021, the Ministry of Health of Tanzania issues its Guidelines for Covid-19 Vaccination. According to the document, Covid-19 vaccination in Tanzania is voluntary to eligible individuals. A consent form shall be signed prior to vaccination. Priority groups of the population have been defined. On 12th February 2021, Tanzania’s government spokesperson, Dr. Hassan Abbas gave clarifications on Tanzania’s Covid-19 status to BBC. He said that the country has controlled the spread of the pandemic by adopting some of the measures indicated by the WHO and by focusing on traditional herbal medicines. However, he could not say whether Tanzania doesn’t or it will not have people suffering from Covid-19 because the interaction of people across the world increases the chances of disease transmission from one place to another. Later in February 2021, the late President Magufli acknowledged that Tanzania has a coronavirus problem after a recent series of high-profile deaths were attributed to pneumonia and respiratory challenges. These include the First Vice President of Zanzibar Seif Hamad and the former central bank Governor Prof Benno Ndulu who have died in February 2021. In addition, the Finance Minister at that time, Philip Mpango, was recently hospitalized in Dodoma and was rumored that he had died of Covid-19. On 23rd February 2021, he gave a media briefing about his ordeal in the hospital without revealing what he was suffering from. In the video available on social media he repeatedly coffeed and struggled to express himself with a trembling voice. Since then, former President Magufuli has encouraged citizens to wear face masks, but only those made in Tanzania. Meanwhile, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has renewed his call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases and share data. He also called on Tanzania to implement public health measures to break the chains of transmission and to prepare for vaccination. On 17th March 2021, Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan has announced on a TV message to the nation the death of President John Magufuli on the same day at Mzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam while he was receiving medical treatment. According to the information disclosed by Suluhu, Magufuli has died of heart failure following heart problems that have been affecting him for about 10 years. However, speculation arose that he had died from Covid-19. Two days later, Samia Suluhu was appointed President of Tanzania. On 6th April 2021,  she announced that she will form a committee of specialists to monitor and provide professional advice on what has to be done so that Tanzania is not alone in its efforts to deal with Covid-19. President Suluhu also said that her administration may resume publishing infection data. At the end of April 2021, a statement from the Ministry of Health of Tanzania informed that the country has installed medical oxygen production plants in its biggest national hospitals to serve intensive care ward patients, including those ill with coronavirus. The plants, which can produce medical oxygen to fill 200 cylinders a day, were installed in seven referral hospitals in a project backed by the World Bank. Tanzania’s national Covid-19 committee released its report on May 2021. It urged Tanzania to disclose again all Covid-19 cases in the country to the World Health Organization and join the COVAX vaccination program. The committee also called to strengthen Covid-19 prevention efforts, comply with international resolutions, strengthen diagnostic capacity, and finalize a Covid-19 treatment guide for health workers. At the end of June 2021, President Suluhu announced that Tanzania will spend USD 470 million on vaccines, protective gear, and other medical equipment, and support economic sectors hardly affected by the pandemic. On 28th July, President Suluhu launched the Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the country by getting the vaccine shot at the White House in Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania Stance on Covid-19 Vaccines

On 2nd February 2021, Tanzania’s health minister announced that the country has no plans in place to accept Covid-19 vaccines. Accordingly, Tanzania has been excluded from the countries set to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) rollout in Africa that has started in Ghana on 24th February 2021. Dubbed COVAX-Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access-it is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and others. Tanzania’s stance on the Covid-19 vaccines follows Magufuli’s skepticism about the vaccines sourced abroad. Accordingly, the Tanzania Health Ministry was instructed to only adopt vaccinations after they had been certified by Tanzania’s own experts. Tanzania’s national Covid-19 committee released its report on May 2021,  urged Tanzania to join the COVAX vaccination program. At the end of June 2021, President Suluhu announced that Tanzania will spend USD 470 million on vaccines, protective gear, and other medical equipment, and to support economic sectors hardly affected by the pandemic.

She also issuing the first Covid-19 infections data since May 2020, revealing that there were more than 100 Covid-19 patients in Tanzania, with 70 of them being provided oxygen.

Vaccine Delivery

In July 2021, the Ministry of Health of Tanzania issues its Guidelines for Covid-19 Vaccination. According to the document, Covid-19 vaccination in Tanzania is voluntary to eligible individuals. A consent form shall be signed prior to vaccination. The country will employ combined campaign and routine delivery mode strategies to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to the targeted population. Health facilities (Dispensaries, Health Centers, and Hospitals) will be the main points for the provision of such vaccines alongside other vaccines in the routine immunization services. Tanzania has prioritized the vaccination of priority and special groups of the population. Priority groups include: i. Frontline health care workers, ii. People with comorbidities aged 18 years and above, iii. Adult 45 years and above, and iv. Frontline essential workers including those at ports of entry, security and defense forces, lecturers, and primary and secondary school teachers. The vaccination of the eligible population (priority group) will be free of charge. Pilgrims, business people, students studying abroad, people attending international sport games, treatments, meetings et cetera who are not eligible for the priority groups. Special groups include: i. International travelers, ii. Pilgrims, iii. UN Staff, and diplomats, iv. Non-residents, and v. Essential workers from the tourism industry. The Government of Tanzania has made Covid-19 vaccine selection preferences, based on vaccine and immunization characteristics (safety, efficacy, storage, type, dosage, price, neutralization of variants, population studied), disease epidemiology, economic and operational considerations, and health policy and programmatic issues. The resulting order of preference is the following:

  1. BioNTech/Pfizer BNT162b2
  2. Moderna mRNA 1273
  3. Novavax NVX-CoV2373
  4. Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) Ad26. COV2.

The list will be updated from time to time based on the available scientific information as recommended by NITAG.

Vaccine Acquisition

Tanzania has prioritized the use of vaccines under the COVAX facility to vaccinate priority groups free of charge. Depending on the vaccine available that will be allocated by COVAX for the Tanzania population, the vaccine will be distributed and administered to priority groups based on equity and risk assessment. Beyond vaccinating 20% of the population covered through COVAX Facility donation, the Government can obtain additional vaccines to achieve herd immunity. This could be done through its own funding, donations, bilateral agreement with financial institutions like World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), African Development Bank (AfDB) and/or through African Vaccine Acquisition Task Force Team (AVATT) of the African Union. Under very special circumstances the Ministry of Health may allow private institutions to import vaccines directly from manufacturers and provide them to the public based on government-regulated prices. In July 2021, the United States government donated over one million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as part of its global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccine doses arrived via COVAX in Dar es Salaam on 24th July 2021. And in November, the US government shipped 500,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to Tanzania to further support the country’s efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Traveling to Tanzania Under Covid-19

Currently, all passengers will be required to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate upon arrival, taken within 72 hours of arrival in Tanzania. All passengers traveling to Tanzania must complete an online Traveller’s Health Surveillance Form. This form must be submitted no more than 24 hours before arrival. Tanzania is also implementing temperature screening for passengers on arrival. All passengers must take a rapid test at a cost of USD 25. Those testing positive or showing symptoms may have to undergo a 14-day self-isolation. The Ministry of Health has issued a list of accredited hotels for Covid-19 quarantine in Tanzania. On May 4th, 2021, Tanzania banned all flights to and from India–with limited exceptions–amid the Covid-19 surge in the Southeast Asian nation.

Economic Impact of Covid-19 in Tanzania

Due to the pandemic, initially tourism has halted, and exports of manufacturing and agricultural goods slumped. The Bank of Tanzania (BOT) Monthly Economic Review of January 2021 indicates that in the year ending December 2020, Tanzania’s travel receipts declined by 59.2%. However, in its Economic Bulletin For The Quarter Ending March 2021, BOT explains that the performance of the external sector of the economy continued to improve, amidst challenges on exports caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The overall balance of payments was a surplus of USD 328.4 million compared to a deficit of USD 136.5 million in the corresponding quarter in 2020, mainly on account of improvement in the financial account. In October 2021, President Samia launched the Government’s Economic Recovery Plan and Response to the Covid-19 pandemic worth TZS 3.62 trillion. President Samia indicated that the concessional loan from the IMF will be used to implement development projects including improving social services in the health sector, education, tourism, and water.

Last Updated: 25th January 2022