Tanzanian President Promotes Steam to Fight Coronavirus, Warns ‘Vaccines Are Not Good’

Tanzania's newly elected president John Magufuli delivers a speech during the swearing in ceremony in Dar es Salaam, on November 5, 2015. John Magufuli won in the October 25 poll with over 58 percent of votes cemented the long-running Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party's firm grip on power.. AFP PHOTO/Daniel …
Daniel Hayduk/AFP via Getty Images

Tanzanian President John Magufuli expressed doubt over foreign-made Chinese coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday, encouraging his countrymen to pray to God while inhaling steam as a natural way to bolster their immune systems against the virus.

“Vaccines are not good. If they were, then the white man would have brought vaccines for HIV/AIDS,” Magufuli said during the opening of a new farm in Tanzania’s northwestern Gaita region on January 27.

“We Tanzanians haven’t locked ourselves in and we don’t expect to lock ourselves down. I don’t expect to announce any lockdown because our God is living and He will continue to protect Tanzanians,” the president said.

“We will also continue to take health precautions including the use of steam inhalation,” he added.

“You inhale while you pray to God, you pray while farming maize, potatoes, so that you can eat well and corona fails to enter your body [sic]. They will scare you a lot, my fellow Tanzanians, but you should stand firm,” Magufuli said, referring to a general consensus by global health bodies encouraging vaccination against the Chinese coronavirus.

Tanzania has not published figures on its national coronavirus caseload since May 8, 2020, when it reported 509 cases and 21 deaths from the virus, according to World Health Organization (W.H.O.) data. President Magufuli on May 3, 2020, dismissed coronavirus testing kits imported to Tanzania from abroad as faulty. He said on national television that imported test kits had recently returned positive results for the Chinese coronavirus on samples taken from a goat and pawpaw, a fruit similar to papaya. The testing kits Magufuli referred to were made in China, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later revealed.

Tanzania has allowed its citizens to continue gathering in large groups for social activities, such as sporting events, throughout the past year, eschewing physical distancing and mask-wearing mandates issued by most other nations during the coronavirus pandemic. Most public institutions and businesses in the East African country have remained open, with the exception of schools and universities last spring. Opposition leaders in Tanzania criticized Magufuli’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic last year, accusing him of being in “denial” about the health crisis. They alleged last April that Tanzania’s true number of coronavirus infections was higher than officially reported.

Magufuli in March 2020 encouraged Tanzanians to pray away the coronavirus in lieu of wearing sanitary masks.

“This is the time to build our faith and continue praying to God and not depending on facemasks. Don’t stop going to churches and mosques for prayers. I’m sure this is just a change of wind and it will go like others have gone,” he said at a church in the Tanzanian national capital, Dodoma.

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