Dodoma — Tanzanian Finance Minister Philip Mpango is back home, after being discharged from Benjamin Mkapa Hospital in Dodoma where he had been admitted for the past two weeks.
“God bless you,” he repeatedly told the doctors and nurses at Mkapa Hospital where he held a press conference before he was discharged on Tuesday in the country’s second capital Dodoma. Dodoma is 444km from the port city of Dar es Salaam.
“I’m doing very well and even started doing some Ministry of Finance work from the hospital,” said Dr Mpango who still appeared weak, lost his breath for a moment, coughing and with a shaky voice.
“I was treated at home for 14 days and spent another 14 days here. I came with my oxygen cylinder but in the last three days I have not used it. And today, the doctors discharged me and I’m ready for work,” said Dr Mpango who talked for 20 minutes before walking off to his hospital room.
Flanked by Dr. Alphonce Chandika, Executive Director of the Benjamin Mkapa Hospital, and the doctor who was in charge Anthony Njunda, Finance Minister Mpango said the fact he had been successfully treated within Tanzania, confirmed the country had invested well in the health sector.
He said as Finance Minister, he is going to ensure even more funds go into the health sector, so that Tanzanians do not have to travel abroad to get first class treatment.
Although, he did not disclose his illness, he warned Tanzanians to follow Standard Operating Procedures to control COVID-19 – this including steaming.
Tanzania’s opposition leader Tundi Lissu was critical of officials who lete the press briefing take place. “Who allowed a sick man to do this, he’s coughing and not wearing a mask. He should be resting and receiving treatment,” he said.
Last week, rumours spread on social media that Dr Mpango had died of the coronavirus, and a video of him coughing at Tuesday’s press conference also went viral, with many condemning hospital officials for parading a sick person.
The finance minister got emotional at one point, and was in tears as he recalled leaders who recently died and whose burials he did not attend.
Those he mentioned include Zanzibar First Vice President Seif Sharif Hamad, who passed away last Wednesday, after his opposition party admitted he had contracted coronavirus and Chief Secretary John Kijazi who is said to have died of heart failure, according to Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.
Tanzania also lost former governor of the central bank Prof Benno Ndulu whom Dr Mpango described as his teacher.
“It was sad that I didn’t attend any of their burial but I wish them eternal peace,” said Dr Mpango.
While Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli at one point declared Tanzania COVID-19 free, the country’s Ministry of Health this week changed course, stepping up manufacturing of masks and urging people to adhere to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
This after the World Health Organization criticized Tanzania’s stand, while also offering to give the country free vaccines via a COVAX project supported by GAVI and CEPI.
Magufuli continues to remain critical of the SOPs, and travels across his country mask-less.
He on Wednesday, again mask-less, launched two big projects, a $250million flyover and inter-change in the city of Dar, built in 30 months to help bring an end to traffic jams, and a mega $30million bus terminal, to ease transport and decongest the capital. Magufuli said the competition of the two projects show the world can go on despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Bulldozer’ Magufuli warned all contractors in Tanzania who are giving COVID-19 as an excuse to delay work, they will be fired.
The flyover, one of 10 being built in the city, was constructed at a traffic black spot, that previously was seen as the main cause of traffic jam in the city. “Many people failed to reach the airport in time, failed to be in time for their weddings, failed to get home in time because of this black spot,” Magufuli said at the launch of the flyover.