Tanzania’s COVID-skeptic President John Magufuli DIED at 61

Tanzania’s COVID-skeptic President John Magufuli DIED at 61

The 61-year-old leader once nicknamed “the bulldozer” has died, after weeks of speculation that he was infected with COVID-19. Many people will remember him for his controversial handling of the pandemic in Tanzania.

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has died at the age of 61, the government announced on Wednesday.

Speculation had been rife about his possible infection with the coronavirus.

Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, Magufuli had downplayed the severity of the virus. At one point, he made fun of the country’s coronavirus testing facilities, saying he had secretly sent samples of papaya and goat and that they came out positive. Though he never provided proof of that claim, he warned that those results could mean that people were getting false positive results.

Shortly afterward, Tanzania stopped sharing updates on the number of people infected and killed due to COVID-19. The country’s last coronavirus figures were given in May last year. At that time, 509 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus and 29 had died.

No lockdown

As neighboring countries Kenya and Uganda were implementing lockdowns and curfews to curb the spread of COVID-19, President Magufuli shocked many by declaring that Tanzania would remain open for business.

“We Tanzanians have not locked ourselves down, and I don’t expect to announce even a single day that we are implementing a lockdown because our God is still alive, and he will continue protecting us Tanzanians,” the late president once told a crowd. “But we shall also continue taking precautions, including steaming. You steam, at the same time pray to God, and going on with your daily activities so that you eat well and your body builds immunity against the coronavirus.”

After Zanzibar’s first Vice President Seif Sharif Hamad died from the virus in February, Magufuli and to a larger extent Tanzanians, began to acknowledge the severe risk of contracting the deadly pathogen. Tanzania’s Health Ministry later issued instructions urging citizens to observe COVID prevention protocols.

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