Tanzania is open to U.S. tourists. Should you go?
Tanzania’s President shrugged off the virus, saying his son got it but recovered after taking lemon and ginger. He argued that their economy was more important than stopping the virus. So he stopped virus reporting. They stopped reporting virus cases and deaths May 8, and declared the country virus-free.
It hasn’t been clear to me what the situation on the ground is like, but my award booking partner Steve Belkin just spent two weeks there and files this report,
Irrespective of anyone’s position about [Tanzania’s] President’s competency or even sanity, there is a new reality in Tanzania the last three months based on his assumption of ‘no Covid-19’ being government policy – no requirements for social distancing, mask-wearing or test taking. In effect, the new normal here is actually the old normal. Imagine life before mid-March 2020, that is Tanzania.
..I can simply report what I have seen and heard firsthand, though for from scientific. Most notable, is the utter lack of any anecdotal serious cases requiring hospitalization or ending in death. Every person I have had contact with, I have asked about if they had friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. with serious cases. I went to bustling marketplaces, local ferries, even two political party rallies, so I was able to query hundreds of people.
I detoured to local hospitals in Pemba, Mafia and Zanzibar and they were all empty. The staff and the few patients in the waiting area all had the same laconic, not a panicked atmosphere.
There is no media blackout or propaganda assault here. People are exposed to all of the international news channels that are churning out daily case spikes and body counts. So, there is no blissful ignorance.
But there does seem to be an intriguing sense of bliss. I’m not sure if people share the president’s sense of blithe confidence that the virus has been eradicated here. Or if they have seen the belly of the beast from Feb-April when the country mimicked the rest of the world with lockdowns, mandatory prevention and infection protocols and decided that coping was a preferred option to quarantining.
Is Tanzania safe? I have no idea how many asymptomatic people are running around and mass spreading the virus. But there is clearly a consensus, rightly or wrongly, that the virus is not a looming and imminent threat to public health. And they are conducting themselves accordingly. [I’ve] been here 13 days, so it will be interesting to see how I test upon my arrival into the Maldives. At the moment, I feel fine.
While I plunged into crowded situations for my ‘research’, I spent the vast majority of my stay in secluded dive locales, with no other divers and a smattering of local populace nearby. Traveling ’empty’ in Tanzania was incredibly simple….and satisfying.
Claims about the virus being a non-issue notwithstanding, it’s far from obvious that a poor country, with a young population that spends most of its time outdoors, ought to follow the lock down policies of wealthier countries. Parts of Africa have seen significant asymptomatic or mild cases spread without significant negative health impacts experienced in Europe and the United States.
Healthy younger people might consider travel there. Older people and those with health problems probably shouldn’t both for reasons of potential exposure and because of the health infrastructure in place if one does fall ill.
You can currently fly from the U.S. to Dar es Salaam via Doha on Qatar, via Istanbul on Turkish, Amsterdam on KLM, Dubai on Emirates and flyDubai.