Tanzania’s new president Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Tuesday that her government would form a committee for scientific research into COVID-19, in a departure from the pandemic-sceptic policies of her predecessor John Magufuli who died last month.

Magufuli, who Hassan said died of heart disease at 61, had dismissed the threat from the coronavirus pandemic, saying God and steam remedies would protect Tanzanians. He opposed mask-wearing and social distancing and denounced vaccines as part of a Western conspiracy to take Africa’s wealth.

As a result Tanzania has not reported coronavirus data since May last year. The WHO repeatedly urged the government to be more transparent but was ignored.

“I’m planning to form a committee of specialists to research more widely COVID-19. They have to find out if these remedies suggested across the world will help us,” the president told officials at the State House in the capital Dar es Salaam.

“We don’t have to remain silent. Either refuse or agree without doing any scientific research,” she added.

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