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Tanzania’s Ministers Still Seem to Be Taking Covid Lightly

Days after President John Mafuguli finally admitted Tanzania has a coronavirus problem, the sight of the country’s finance minister coughing and gasping during a news conference to defend the state of his health has left many in shock. Finance Minister Philip Mpango, who did not reveal what he was suffering from, spoke to about 10 reporters on Tuesday at a hospital in the capital, Dodoma, after rumours that he had died of COVID-19. Mpango, who was not wearing a mask, was flanked by a doctor and a hospital director – both also maskless. Behind him stood doctors and nurses who were wearing masks. The minister, his voice trembling, had a coughing fit at the news conference to announce he was being discharged from hospital after 14 days. A recent spate of deaths attributed to “pneumonia” and “respiratory challenges” has struck both government officials and members of the public. Seif Sharif Hamad, one of Tanzania’s highest-profile politicians and vice president of the semi-autonomous island region of Zanzibar, died last week, with his political party admitting he had contracted coronavirus. Magufuli’s chief secretary also died in recent days, though the cause was not revealed.