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Tanzania Summons U.S. Envoy Over Travel Warning

Tanzania Summons U.S. Envoy Over Travel Warning

Tanzania said Tuesday it had summoned the top official at the US embassy to object to an advisory that warned of “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases in the East African nation.

The embassy’s “health advisory” published earlier this month contained inaccurate information, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The advisory reported, for instance, that “many hospitals” in Dar es Salaam, the economic capital, “have been overwhelmed in recent weeks”.

This claim “is not true and could cause panic among Tanzanians and foreigners”, the foreign ministry’s statement said.

The US embassy’s charge d’affaires, Inmi Patterson, met with Wilbert Ibuge, permanent secretary at the foreign ministry, who reminded Patterson about the two countries’ “historical cooperation”, the foreign ministry said.

It did not specify when the meeting took place.  The US embassy in Tanzania has been without an ambassador since 2016.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has repeatedly played down the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, and it has been nearly a month since the country released official data on case numbers, which stood at 480 with 16 deaths on April 29.

Last week the government announced that universities and sports events would resume in June and also lifted restrictions on flights, even as critics say cases are soaring.

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Opposition politicians have criticised the lack of data, which the government stopped giving after Magufuli cast doubt on the credibility of laboratory equipment and technicians.

Laboratory officials were suspended earlier this month after Magufuli said he had secret tests performed in which a papaya and a goat tested positive.

Tanzania’s approach contrasts with that of neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, which imposed full lockdowns or curfews and movement restrictions and which have been giving detailed daily updates.

©2020 AFP

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