In the US, one source has said that the number of deaths ‘from’ Covid-19, as opposed to the number of deaths of people ‘with’ Covid-19 is vanishingly small, probably less than 10%. Presumably we can apply the same comment to recorded cases (link to embedded video: https://tinyurl.com/y83vtm3w).
Some quick comparisons: globally, nearly a million people die of malaria every year. 1.5 million people die of TB. Nearly 800,000 die of HIV, despite enormous sums of donor funding being poured into this single disease. There are no vaccines for any of these diseases, or for most of the big killers, although many are preventable.
Taylor complains of politicization of statistics and media in Tanzania. He writes: “Controlling the narrative means silencing facts that contradict the official line.” Taylor believes that statistics about Covid-19 are no exception. No doubt, Taylor is right.
Fear-mongering is not exclusive to African leaders or media. Many of the current lockdowns in the UK, US and elsewhere are based on making people feel afraid to go about their normal day to day lives; they are made to feel ashamed if they have the temerity to ‘contravene’ government guidelines in the slightest way.
According to Taylor, Magufuli has “emphasised the importance of working hard, keeping the economy going strong, and maintaining a healthy supply of food and other goods.” He finishes with a couple of facile comparisons with the 1918 ‘Spanish’ flu epidemic, and the Maji Maji Rebellion in 1905.
Perhaps Magufuli’s critical stance towards Covid-19 would be more constructively contrasted with his far less critical stance towards HIV. 1.6m Tanzanians are living with HIV, 24,000 people died from HIV in 2018 and there were 72,000 new infections.
If the president had said what the WHO and UNAIDS have known for several decades, that crumbling and unsafe healthcare infrastructures are probably responsible for more HIV infections than heterosexual sex, they could have started reversing this trend long ago.
Magufuli went along with other high HIV prevalence countries, took the considerable amounts of money offered, and allowed the epidemic to continue, although incidence has been dropping slowly since the 1990s.
Magufuli is no public health expert, and I don’t think he claims otherwise. But the ongoing response of many countries to Covid-19 is not a viable option, and it’s good to hear that a (very) few countries are saying so. I hope the president does ask for help, given Tanzania’s lack of healthcare capacity and poor health infrastructure.
There are plenty of issues Taylor could have looked at before wagging yet another neo-imperialist finger at Magufuli, but here’s just one: with an estimated 800 million people affected by hunger every year, globally, and over 9 million people dying of starvation, closing down any of the fragile African economies is not a viable option.