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Tanzania’s President Lauds Bishops for Facilitating Public Worship Amid COVID-19 Fears

Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli at a past function.

Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli has appreciated the Catholic Bishops in the East African nation for standing firm in faith and offering public Masses amid calls to suspend public worship as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19.  

“I congratulate the president of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Archbishop Nyaisonga, who says we are in prayer,” President Magufuli said Sunday, May 3 referencing the Local Ordinary of Mbeya Archdiocese, Gervas John Mwasikwabhila Nyaisonga and added, “We will continue to serve the nation, we will continue to serve Him, worshipping our God and fulfilling our oaths,”

President Magufuli who has drawn criticism both at home and abroad for adopting a more relaxed approach to COVID-19 compared to the restrictions in other African countries said, “This is a good time to proclaim what we believe.”

“There are many well-established witnesses, such as the Ugandan martyrs, and other apostles who stood firm during difficult times; religious leaders, remind us of this,” he said in Chato, his native region located in Northwestern Tanzania where he presided over the swearing-in ceremony of the newly appointed Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister.

President Magufuli, a practicing Catholic, quoted Biblical examples of people who turned out victorious in the face of challenges saying, “Jonah lived in the bowels of the fish; some were thrown into the fire; there were those who were thrown in the lion’s den but the lion didn't eat them because they trusted God.”

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He expressed his misgivings about spiritual leaders who are not reaching out to the people of God in the midst of the pandemic saying, “Today some religious leaders have begun to forget their God and the Bible or the Qur'an are being put aside.”

Some religious leaders are “putting their human nature first saying, stop praying, we are saving ourselves and other shocking things,” President Magufuli shared.

He encouraged Tanzanians to stand firm and ignore “short-sighted” people who keep calling for some cities in the country to be put on lockdown.

“I urge Tanzanians not to be carried away by the experiences of people who are short sighted,” he said and added, “My fellow Tanzanians, stand firm. We have already won this war and God will not leave us. and our God always loves us.”

He added, “continue working while taking the necessary precautions.” 

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He asked politicians to stop using COVID-19 “as an agenda; it won't help you.”

“Let us consult with the experts to find reasons that can help us even deal with (COVID-19) as people get sick and suffer from this corona disease,” President Magufuli said. 

A holder of a doctorate in chemistry, the Tanzania’s President questioned the testing kits of the COVID-19 after he sanctioned tests on non-human samples.

According to the President, non-human samples from pawpaw, a sheep, and a goat and other items were collected, assigned human names and ages without the knowledge of lab technicians. The pawpaw and goat tested positive for COVID-19, he disclosed.

“It is likely those who tested positive for the virus are, in fact, negative,” President Magufuli said and added, “That is why at present, some who are said to have corona have not felt any symptoms. It can be said that their immune system is strong, okay, but let us look into all this.”

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In his Sunday address, the President directed the country’s security agencies to investigate the imported testing kits. On Monday, May 4, he suspended the head of the national health laboratory who has been overseeing the testing of COVID-19.

Tanzania adds to the list of countries that have reported faulty testing kits after India faulted kits imported from China.

As of Monday, May 4, Tanzania had recorded 167 cases recoveries out of the 480 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to worldometers.  

Tanzania’s President also said plans are underway to import the drug from Madagascar where the island country’s President announced that a herbal remedy for COVID-19 had been discovered.

“I have already written to Madagascar's president and we will soon dispatch a plane to fetch the medicine so that Tanzania can also benefit from it,” President Magufuli said.

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Cameroonian Archbishop Samuel Kleda known for his practice of herbalism for over 30 years has also developed a cure for the disease, which is being tried out in the central African nation.

In Nigeria, the medical center owned by the Oblates of St. Benedictines (OSB) announced the development of a herbal drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

As different countries work toward finding a cure for COVID-19, WHO warned governments across the globe about “self-medication with any medicines… as a prevention or cure for Covid-19.”

In the Monday, May 4 statement, the global organization reiterated earlier remarks that in finding an effective cure for COVID-19, there are “no short-cuts.” However, WHO underscored, there are international trials toward finding an effective treatment of the virus.