DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania 

After months of denial, Tanzania’s government has finally reckoned the danger posed by COVID-19, urging its citizens to take precautions.

Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said the country has devised various measures to fight the coronavirus. “Wear a clean mask to protect yourself,” she said in a statement Thursday.

The new measures come days after the World Health Organization warned authorities in the East African country to implement public health measures to fight the pandemic.

Local and international activists have criticized the government for its sluggish approach in handling the pandemic amid the deadly resurgence of new virus strains.

President John Magufuli, who repeatedly mocked mask-wearing, has surprisingly softened his stance, urging people to take precautions.

Addressing worshippers at St Peters’ parish in Dar as Salaam Sunday, Magufuli, who had also declared COVID-19 vaccine unnecessary, urged Tanzanians to take precautions against coronavirus as advised by health authorities.

As part of the government’s strategy to curb the spread of the virus, public transport company UDART issued new guidelines for commuters in Dar es Salaam, requiring them to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Gwajima asked Tanzanians to eat a balanced diet containing vegetables and fruits and use alternative remedies that are potentially useful to fight respiratory infections.

Tanzania has so far recorded 509 coronavirus cases and 21 deaths, with 183 recoveries.

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