At a time when countries around the world are stepping up restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus, Tanzania President John Magufuli has said that his government would not shut down places of worship as they are the only places for true healing.
“These Holy places are where God is. My fellow Tanzanians, let us not be afraid of going to praise Him,” he said during a church service in the capital, Dodoma.
“Coronavirus cannot survive in the body of Christ, it will burn. That is exactly why I did not panic while taking the Holy communion,” the president told the congregation amid cheers.
In a country that has recorded 12 coronavirus cases so far, the opposition has hit hard at Magufuli for asking people to continue going to places of worship, putting them at risk of contracting the deadly virus.
Opposition leader Zitto Kabwe, who criticized Magufuli’s comments via his Twitter account, asked the president to close all mosques and churches to curb the spread of the virus.
“Let’s not argue with science,” Kabwe said. “Coronavirus is very bad.”
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID_19, has killed more than 7,000 people and affected over 200,000 worldwide since it emerged last December.
In Africa, which has been among the last to be hit by the global pandemic, about 43 countries have confirmed cases, with 13 reported deaths.
People are currently being advised to protect against the spread of the virus with actions such as washing their hands and covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Countries around the world have also canceled flights while tightening controls at borders to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Magufuli’s comments come amid restrictions from his neighboring countries to reduce the spread of the virus.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has banned public gatherings including church and weddings while closing the country’s borders except for cargo shipments.
Kenya has also stopped public meetings including religious gatherings and has suspended all international passenger flights.
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame has also shut down schools, universities and places of worship. All arriving and departing commercial flights have been suspended.
In Tanzania, Magufuli recently announced that travelers would be quarantined at their own cost. He has also closed schools and suspended sports events.