More than 88 days have passed since Tanzania reported even a single new coronavirus case — far longer than any other African country. Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has declared the scourge “absolutely finished” and encouraged tourists to come back.
Mr. Magufuli has said that the power of prayer helped purge the virus from the country, even as the African continent is expected this week to cross the threshold of one million reported cases.
He stood before government and security officials in the capital, Dodoma, and praised them for restoring safety in the East African nation of nearly 60 million. “Our enemies will say a lot, but here in Tanzania we are safe,” he said. “We put God first, and God heard us.”
The announcement is receiving mixed responses from medical authorities around the world. They warn a disaster. However, inside Tanzania, few dare stand up to the President, who has become increasingly autocratic since he was elected five years ago.
Opposition leaders in Parliament demanded testing for all lawmakers after three died within days of each other in April. The demand went unheeded, and Parliament has now suspended ahead of the October election.
Mr. Magufuli has promoted an unproven herbal tea from Madagascar as a cure. He has disparaged social distancing and mask-wearing. And his government has not disseminated any recent data to the World Health Organization. The group last heard from Tanzania on April 29, when the country reported 509 cases and 21 deaths from Covid-19.
In May, the head of Tanzania’s national laboratory was dismissed after Mr. Magufuli questioned the efficacy of testing kits supplied by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr. Magufuli claimed that the kits had returned positive results on samples secretly taken from a goat and a pawpaw fruit. The Africa C.D.C. and the W.H.O. both rebutted those allegations, saying the tests were reliable.
With limited reporting, critics have accused the government of a cover-up, especially after videos of night burials with attendants wearing protective gear surfaced online.