Several opposition members in Tanzania have called on the authorities to release news of President John Magufuli, who has not appeared in public since February 27, prompting questions about his state of health.
Rumours have swirled on social media about possible coronavirus contamination, especially in neighbouring Kenya under the hashtag # pray4magufuli.
Magufuli, 61, has been playing down the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming Tanzania had freed itself from the Covid” through prayer.
He also rejected any lockdowns or measures such as mask-wearing.
But he later admitted what he called a “respiratory disease” was still circulating.
Many Tanzanian officials have died in recent weeks, often without the cause of their death being specified.
Among them, the first vice-president of the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad, who died in mid-February. His party said he had contracted Covid-19.
John Magufuli was last seen in public on February 27, during the swearing-in of his new secretary-general.
He then did not participate in the ordinary virtual summit of heads of state of the East African Community (EAC) scheduled for the same day and has not been seen since at the two Sunday services, where he is usually filmed live by national television.
His main opponent Tundu Lissu said on Twitter: “It’s a sad comment on his stewardship of our country that it’s come to this: that he himself had get COVID-19 and be flown out to Kenya in order to prove that prayers, steam inhalations and other unproven herbal concoctions he’s championed are no protection against coronavirus!”
Government sources have denied the information.
The Tanzanian government has not commented, but Information Minister Innocent Bashungwa warned on Wednesday the media and the public against “using rumors as a source of information.”
Tanzania has not published data on Covid-19 since April 2020.