Voice of America claims that “Tanzania has taken a controversially relaxed approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic”. That’s an odd view of ‘controversy’ when you compare it to violently enforced lockdowns in several neighboring countries, resulting in starvation on a massive scale.
The East African asks if some middle ground can be found between campaigning for upcoming elections in East Africa, and what is seen as an ongoing need to avoid large gatherings. Tanzania’s election is due in October of this year and Uganda’s in January of next year.
The article argues that Covid-19 restrictions seen in many countries could reinforce “a long-established culture of unfair competition” and “serve the interests of the incumbency”. However, Tanzania only imposed relatively mild restrictions, and they were lifted two months ago.
There’s little comparison between Tanzania and Uganda. Uganda’s president has been in office for 34 years, has worked hard to ensure that he will be able to stay in office for at least another five years, and can run for office again in 2026. That is, by anyone’s definition, controversial.
But the East African’s argument implies, perhaps inadvertently, that Tanzania’s Magafuli, who has only been in office for five years, is willing to risk campaigning for reelection without depending on the kind of de facto martial law that Uganda’s Museveni has imposed.
Also controversial is the director of the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci. Aside from holding this office for longer than Museveni (and even Cambodia’s Hun Sen), Fauci has a long history of what Michael Fumento calls “nightmare scenarios”.
One of Fauci’s earliest scenarios was that HIV might be transmitted by casual contact, before he went on to champion a threat of high rates of HIV transmission between heterosexuals, both of which turned out to be dangerously inaccurate.
Most countries, rich and poor, experienced relatively low levels of transmission of HIV. But a handful, all in sub-Saharan Africa, experienced levels of transmission among heterosexuals that went well beyond Fauci’s dreams. Transmission among people with no identifiable sexual risks is still high in those same high prevalence countries.
An English Guardian article suggests that poor countries are not able to afford the kind of measures that the UK, US and other rich countries have imposed. But that doesn’t go far enough to explaining why some poor countries appear to have been more successful than richer countries in their efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
What poor countries cannot afford to do is to close down their economies, stop working, producing food and other goods, and run off to their bunkers until effective vaccines and/or cures are available for all dangerous pathogens, known and unknown. Even a few European countries already suspect they may have imposed some ineffective measures.
Poor countries can’t afford lockdowns of a few days, but they may also know that the longer-term damage to economies will hit them, regardless of whether they impose the sort of restrictions that most rich countries have imposed. Of course, it is possible that rich countries will realize the same; there’s a lot we don’t yet know.
Tanzania may have found a strategy that other countries, bombarded by conflicting advice and unaffordable loans from rich countries, can follow to minimize the risks of a Covid-19 epidemic, whatever those happen to be. Crucially, Tanzania’s strategy also minimizes the risks of reversing progress they have made over the past few years. Perhaps that’s hard for the media to process.