Tanzania President John Magufuli, an avowed COVID-19 sceptic out of public view for nearly two weeks, is said to be in India receiving medical treatment for the virus.
Tanzania’s main opposition leader Tundu Lissu, who lost last year’s election to Magufuli, cited medical and security sources in Kenya for his information that the president had been transferred from hospital in Kenya to India and was in a coma.
Tanzanian government spokesmen have remained silent during days of speculation over the 61-year-old Magufuli’s whereabouts and health.
In power since 2015 and nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for his anticorruption campaign and frugality, Magufuli was last seen on Feb. 27 looking his normal robust self during a ceremony at State House in Dar es Salaam.
Lissu said Magufuli was flown to Kenya’s Nairobi Hospital at the start of this week and then on to an unknown destination in India.
“He’s comatose since yesterday morning,” he told Reuters, without elaborating.
Kenya’s Nation newspaper cited unidentified political and diplomatic sources on Wednesday saying that an African leader, which it did not name, was being treated for COVID-19 on a ventilator at Nairobi Hospital.
Magufuli has played down the threat from COVID-19, saying God and remedies such as steam inhalation would protect Tanzanians.
He has mocked coronavirus tests, denounced vaccines as part of a Western conspiracy to take Africa’s wealth, and opposed mask-wearing and social distancing.
“His COVID denialism in tatters, his prayer-over-science folly has turned into a deadly boomerang,” Lissu tweeted in the early hours of Thursday.
Tanzania stopped reporting coronavirus data in May last year when it said it had 509 cases and 21 deaths, according to data held at the World Health Organization (WHO).
Interestingly, Magufuli is a former chemistry professor who rose up the political ladder.
His faith-over-fact stance continues to be popular amongst many Tanzanians.