Tanzania's re-elected President John Pombe Magufuli holds a spear and shield from the elders after he was sworn-in for the second term at the Jamhuri stadium in Dodoma, Tanzania November 5, 2020. Tanzania State House Press/Handout via REUTERS

 

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday that Tanzania, whose president has advised citizens to shun coronavirus vaccines, is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and its healthcare facilities could be quickly overwhelmed.

In a statement, the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam said it was “aware of a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases since January”.

“The practice of COVID-19 mitigation and prevention measures remains limited ... healthcare facilities in Tanzania can become quickly overwhelmed in a healthcare crisis.”

Tanzanian leader John Magufuli has said citizens should avoid vaccines and the country does not need a lockdown because God will protect his people.

Homespun precautions such as steam inhalation, he said, were better than dangerous foreign vaccines.

The east African country stopped publishing coronavirus data in April last year.

The U.S. embassy did not give figures for the surge in infections but said “limited hospital capacity throughout Tanzania could result in life-threatening delays for emergency medical care”.

Magufuli has also rubbished imported COVID-19 testing kits, saying they had returned positive results on a goat and a pawpaw fruit. He has promoted traditional remedies, without offering data or scientific evidence. - Reuters Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Giles Elgood

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