Tanzania’s health ministry has denied claims being circulated on social media that hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Mabula Mchembe, said the public should not spread fear among people.
The government has repeatedly been accused of playing down the threat posed by Covid-19.
Prof Mchembe said that he had visited Mloganzila and Muhimbilia – two major hospitals in the main city Dar es Salaam – and was “satisfied that not everyone admitted here is suffering from Covid-19 as said by social media”.
His comments came a few days after Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima showed journalists how to make a concoction from onions, ginger, lemons and green peppers, and encouraged the public to take it as precautionary measure.
There is no scientific evidence that it helps to combat the virus.
A blogger shared photos of Dr Gwajima and other officials inhaling steam and taking the concoction:
Tanzania is one of the few countries in the world to not publish any data on Covid-19 cases. It last did so in May 2020, when about 500 cases and 20 deaths were recorded. The following month, Mr Magufuli declared Tanzania “coronavirus-free”.
Last month, President John Magufuli said some Tanzanians had travelled abroad to take the vaccine but “ended up bringing us a strange coronavirus”. The comments were seen as an apparent admission that the virus may be circulating in the country.
Dr Gwajima also warned media outlets not to report unofficial information on coronavirus or any disease. The warning comes after the Catholic Church said it had observed an increase in requiem masses, blaming funerals on a spike in coronavirus infections.
The US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised against all travel to Tanzania and updated its alert to level four, meaning transmission of coronavirus in the country is “high or rising rapidly”.
On Monday, Dr Gwajima said that “for now the government has no plans to receive the Covid vaccine being distributed in other countries”.
Last week, President John Magufuli warned officials against acquiring vaccines saying they could harm people, without giving evidence.
Millions of people have already been inoculated in many countries after the vaccines were given emergency approval. Vaccines are rigorously tested in trials involving thousands of people before being assessed by health regulators.
They look at all the data on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines before approving them for use on a wider population. Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Tanzania to consider inoculating its population.