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Tanzania in focus as Oman mulls halting flights from certain places

16 Feb 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health, said the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments arising from the COVID-19 pandemic is studying the prospect of stopping flights coming from countries that have high prevalence of coronavirus infections, including Tanzania.

Speaking to Oman TV on Monday evening, H E Dr Sa’eedi said data shows that travellers arriving from Tanzania in the sultanate have a high number of infected passengers among them. 

“Eighteen per cent tested positive for COVID-19, which is a very high number. The Supreme Committee is considering stopping flights coming from countries with high infection rates,” he said.

According to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report dated February 8, Tanzania has spent more than six months trying to convince the world that it has been cured of the coronavirus through ‘prayer’, while refusing to take measures to curb its spread. However, dissent is mounting, along with deaths attributed to ‘pneumonia’.

“COVID-19 is killing people and we see a lot of cases but we cannot talk about the disease,” AFP quoted a doctor as saying at a public hospital in Tanzania’s biggest city Dar es Salaam, who like many asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

AFP reported that Tanzanian President John Magufuli has continually played down the seriousness of the virus even as neighbouring countries shut borders and implemented curfews and lockdowns. The country last gave case figures in April 2020.

In Tanzania, people can occasionally be spotted wearing masks and some speak openly about their fears. “This thing is attacking and the government does not want to clearly come out and accept. Four people I know died of what we are told is severe pneumonia and all passed on during a similar period,” Kuluthum Hussein, 28, told AFP.

Speaking to Muscat Daily, a businessman who arrived in Oman two weeks ago from Tanzania said life there is ‘so normal’. 

“I had gone to visit my family for a few weeks and while there, I observed that life is normal. Most people do not take preventive measures like wearing masks and are mingling with others. There is no data on the number of cases of the virus. Some people get sick and even die without the government announcing the cause,” the businessman said.

In January, Denmark’s infectious diseases research institute Statens Serum Institut confirmed two cases of the South African virus variant, which is thought to be more contagious, in travellers returning from Tanzania. One woman in Dar es Salaam told AFP her cousin had died after a business trip to South Africa.

Magufuli said some Tanzanians had travelled abroad to take the vaccine but “they ended up bringing us a strange coronavirus”.

With many Omanis having relatives in Tanzania, several of them have postponed visits to the country. “I have been visiting every year. I visited my relatives. But I didn’t go last year. And I don’t think I will go this year either,” Abu Sufian, a retired Omani professional, said.

 

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