The vice president of the Tanzanian autonomous region of Zanzibar, covering the archipelago of the same name in the Indian Ocean, died last Wednesday, reports the BBC.
The official cause of death of Maalim Saif Sharif Hamad has not been announced, but the news of his death comes three weeks after his party announced that he had contracted a coronavirus. Hamad was the most famous Tanzanian politician, who officially stated that he was infected with COVID-19.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has long denied the danger of the new virus and said it could be defeated with herbs. However, the death of Hamad, who was extremely popular among the country’s population and leader of one of the opposition parties, prompted Magufuli to make a statement Sunday acknowledging that Tanzania has a problem with the spread of COVID-19.
The populist president called on the people of the East African country to take precautions and even to wear masks, but only locally made.
The head of the presidential office, John Kijazi, also died last week, but the cause of his death was not announced. At his funeral on Friday, the president called on the population to participate in three-day prayers to defeat a “respiratory disease” threatening the country. He assured that no lockdown would be introduced in the country, and called: “Let us continue to put God first and take action.”
Tanzania has not released the number of coronavirus cases since April after the president announced that COVID-19 had been defeated. According to official figures, there are still only 509 people infected with the coronavirus, but residents say many people have fallen ill and hospitals have seen an increase in the number of patients with pneumonia.
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