Tanzania’s prime minister, Kassim Majaliwa, has refuted reports that the country’s President John Magufuli is unwell.

Majaliwa instead assured Tanzanians that their Head of State is “healthy and continuing with his duties as usual.”

Majaliwa spoke during the Islamic Friday prayer in southern Tanzania. He also asked Tanzanians to ignore reports their leader was ill.

But he failed to elaborate on the president’s whereabouts or explain why he has not been seen in public for two weeks, amid rumors that he has contracted COVID-19. Other reports suggest the President had been flown abroad, in Nairobi and later India, for treatment.

Majaliwa again assured Tanzanians ‘he had spoken with Magufuli by phone’ but stopped short of sharing evidence.

The prime minister’s remarks were the first official statement by the Tanzanian government about Magufuli’s absence from public view amid widespread rumors that he is seriously ill.

The 61-year-old leader last appeared publicly on February 27 during an official function at the statehouse in Dar es Salaam, the country’s business capital. He has failed to attend church for two consecutive weekends for the first time since he was elected to office six years ago.

Various international media outlets have reported on Magufuli’s public absence possible transfer to a hospital outside the country.

Neither his spokesman, Gerson Msigwa, nor government spokesman Hassan Abbas has responded to media inquiries.

Tanzania’s government has not publicly reported cases of COVID-19 infection since May 2020, when it recorded 509 infections and 21 deaths among the East African country of 60 million people.

Magufuli has promoted prayer and steam inhalation as an antidote to the coronavirus, and he has disparaged new vaccines as “dangerous.” He initially also discouraged Tanzanians from wearing masks and has consistently refused to lock down the country.

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