Signaling a shift in its response to COVID-19, Tanzania installed medical oxygen production plants at its largest national hospitals to help treat coronavirus patients and other critically ill people.
Demand for oxygen in Tanzania has increased dramatically after multiple COVID-19 outbreaks. The plants, which can fill 200 oxygen cylinders a day, were installed in early May at seven referral hospitals. The World Bank backed the project.
New President Samia Suluhu Hassan altered Tanzania’s COVID-19 response after the March death of President John Magufuli, a staunch COVID-19 skeptic, who in February refused to seek vaccines.
The lack of preventive measures led to two major outbreaks. The oxygen production plants were installed as health experts fear that a third wave will grip the nation.
The country’s outbreak got so bad in February that seven hospitals in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam ran out of beds and had to turn patients away. Oxygen and respirators were in short supply, and intensive care units were full, Bloomberg reported.
Hassan has created a COVID-19 task force and urged Tanzanians to follow globally accepted public health guidelines, such as wearing masks and washing hands.
In mid-May, the task force recommended that the country begin procuring COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, the global plan to distribute vaccines equitably.
The recommendations include vaccinating front-line health care workers, religious leaders, people working in the tourism industry, people over 50 and those with chronic health conditions.
“The committee has advised the government and recommended that Tanzania provide information on the presence of the disease as well as take steps to strengthen all preventive measures to curb the threat of the third wave of virus,” task force Chairman Said Aboud said in a report by Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen. Tanzania had not released any official COVID-19 data in about a year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) applauded Tanzania’s new approach to the pandemic.
“I welcome the recommendation of the [task force] to intensify Tanzania’s response to the COVID19 pandemic and participate in COVAX,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in The Citizen’s report. “WHO is fully committed to supporting countries to end this pandemic and advance other health priorities.”
In mid-May, scientists said they had found a highly mutated variant of the virus in three people traveling from Tanzania to Angola, The East African reported.