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Over 25 Priests, 60 Nuns Have Succumbed to COVID-19-related Illnesses in Tanzania: Cleric

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At least 25 Catholic Priests and 60 members of Religious Orders have succumbed to COVID-related complications in Tanzania, the Secretary General of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) has said.

“In two months, more than 25 Priests and 60 Nuns, Catholic nurses and doctors have died of respiratory problems,” Fr. Charles Kitima told journalists in the East African nation Tuesday, March 2.

Making reference to deaths recorded from mid-December to February, Fr. Kitima remarked, “This has never happened in a short span of time before.”

The Tanzanian Cleric went on to clarify that COVID-19 had not been ascertained among members of the Clergy and Nuns who have died in the two-month period.

"We (Church leaders) do not test COVID-19 and doctors cannot tell us because not all of them are allowed to conduct tests for the virus," Fr. Kitima said.

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The increase in deaths, he said, is reason enough for the people of God in the East African country “to admit that there is a problem.”

“Coronavirus exists. We ask you to take precautions. We need to increase our efforts to protect ourselves,” the Secretary General of TEC said, adding, “We have a responsibility to protect the elderly and those with underlying health conditions by taking the necessary precautions.”

Toward the end of January, Catholic Bishops in Tanzania called for caution amid a new wave of COVID-19 reported in several countries saying the East African nation “is not an island.”

“Our country is not an island,” members of TEC said in their January 26 statement, adding, “We must defend ourselves, take precautions, and cry out to God with all our might so that this scourge will not overtake us.”

Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli had declared the country free of the coronavirus in June last year, crediting the COVID-19 status to the power of prayer.

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However, on February 10, the US Embassy in the country reported a surge of COVID-19 cases since January 2021

On February 17, Zanzibar’s first Vice President, Seif Hamad died while undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at the Muhimbili Hospital in Dar-es-Salaam. 

Hamad declared his positive status at the beginning of February, becoming “the first person to publicly reveal a COVID-19 status since April last year when President John Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free,” according to The EastAfrican.

During the March 2 Press Conference, the Secretary General of TEC emphasized the need for Tanzanians to be equipped with facts about the COIVID-19 pandemic. 

“Tanzanians have a right to be given accurate scientific information on COVID-19,” Fr. Kitima said, adding that lack of factual information about the virus is causing fear among the people.

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In February, TEC President, Archbishop Gervais Nyaisonga cautioned against fear in the face of COVID-19 and encouraged Tanzanians to adhere to "advice given by experts."

“Tanzanians, we are encouraged not to be enslaved by fear. Fear is a weapon that can weaken a person,” the Archbishop of Tanzania’s Mbeya Archdiocese said in his February 16 video message. 

He added, “Let us seek the truth, let us follow what is factual.”

The Tanzanian Archbishop also called on his compatriots to pray for God’s protection saying, “Let us not stop praying. God has been listening to us. May we ask Him to fill us with wisdom to understand the message we receive from our experts.” 

“From God, we will find more strength to do that which is our duty to avoid this disease,” Archbishop Nyaisonga said.

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