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Tanzanian President John Magufuli has consistently downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic despite warnings from experts that his country is experiencing a surge in infections, threatening to overwhelm its health facilities. Magufuli’s skepticism has drawn rebukes from global health officials who worry that his refusal to take preventive measures may also undermine efforts to slow the spread of the virus across East Africa. The death of a senior official in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar region this week, apparently from COVID-19, may finally break Magufuli’s intransigence.
Seif Sharif Hamad, 77, was a senior leader of the opposition ACT Wazalendo party, who ran unsuccessfully six times to be president of Zanzibar. After another failed bid in 2020, newly elected Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi, of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, appointed Hamad first vice president, a position he had previously held between 2010 and 2015.