Viewpoint: Tanzania’s anti-vaxxer president is slowing COVID response and endangering lives

Credit: DWS/Khamis
Credit: DWS/Khamis

In politics, there are generally two ways of making decisions. The first is evidence-based, weighing the pros and cons and choosing the best option; the greatest good for the greatest number.

The other is a populist approach, hell-bent against facts, science and logic. In a global pandemic where more than 2 million people have died, that is catastrophic.

The Tanzanian president [John Magufuli] seems to be taking populism to a whole new level.

Maybe he is under the influence of the same rabid anti-lockdown social media messaging that has persuaded some of my family and friends that Bill Gates or 5G have created the virus. But regardless of Magufuli’s cavalier motivation, these stances are a danger to public health. People are being exposed to suffering, and in some cases death.

Although the virus’s effect on Africa – including the numbers hospitalised or being tested – has not been quantified, the grim facts are crystal clear from within Magufuli’s own circle.

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Yet Magufuli sticks bizarrely to asserting that Covid is a hoax. Instead of supporting lockdowns, and encouraging mask wearing as we prepare to mark the sombre anniversary of one year since the virus arrived in Africa, he has chosen to directly contradict local, regional and international efforts to defeat it.

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