Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, who claimed coronavirus had been removed through prayer, dies aged 61

  • Video report by ITV News International Correspondent John Irvine

President John Magufuli of Tanzania, a prominent Covid-19 sceptic in Africa whose populist rule often cast his East African country in a harsh international spotlight, has died at the age of 61.

Mr Magufuli’s death was announced on Wednesday by Vice President Samia Suluhu, who said the president died of heart failure.

He had not been seen in public since the end of February and top government officials had denied that he was in ill health, even as rumours swirled online that he was sick and possibly incapacitated from illness.

In June last year, he said that the East African country had eradicated the disease through three days of national prayer.

“Corona in our country has been removed by the powers of God,” Mr Magufuli said.

He also claimed his son had been "healed" from the virus by drinking ginger and lemon juice despite no scientific evidence that the concoction can cure Covid-19.

“Now, he is doing press ups,” Magufuli claimed.

John Magufuli casting his vote in the election in October 2020. Credit: AP

Alongside promoting unverified treatments, the president has been accused of silencing those who raise concerns about the virus.

He also fired his deputy health minister and suspended the head of the national laboratory, accusing those processing test results of being “bough to mislead”, according to local media.

Tanzania was one of few countries that refuses to publish national coronavirus statistics, ceasing updating its case numbers in May, when the total reached just over 500.

The Health Ministry later said it had no plans to accept Covid vaccines.