Tanzania’s Covid-Skeptic President John ‘Bulldozer’ Magufuli Dies At 61

Tanzania's COVID-Skeptic President John 'Bulldozer' Magufuli Dies At 61

Tanzania’s Covid-Skeptic President John ‘Bulldozer’ Magufuli Dies At 61.

PRESIDENT John Magufuli, once nicknamed ‘the bulldozer’, died just weeks after speculation that he was infected with Covid-19. Many people will remember him for his controversial handling of the pandemic in Tanzania – speculation had been rife about his possible infection with the coronavirus.

Announcing his death in a live television address, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Magufuli had died of a heart condition. Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, Magufuli had continuously downplayed the severity of the virus.

At one point, he even 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 afterwards, 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.

In mid-February, the Medical Association of Tanzania issued a carefully-worded statement about “an increase in patients with breathing difficulties.” But its head, Dr Shadrack Mwaibambe, pointed out that breathing difficulties could be symptoms of other conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or pneumonia, not just Covid-19.

As neighbouring 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.

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Tony Winterburn

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