Tanzanian President John Magafuli, whose Covid-19 policies were widely criticized by health authorities across the globe, has died.
Magafuli died at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, the country’s vice president announced in a televised address on Wednesday. He was 61.
“President John Magufuli died of a heart ailment that he has battled for over 10 years,” Samia Suluhu Hassan said.
She added that the president had been receiving treatment at Mzena hospital since Sunday, and announced 14 days of national mourning.
Magufuli, who usually made weekly public appearances at Sunday church services, had not been seen since February 27, fueling speculation that he was ill and was being treated abroad.
The late leader of the East African nation was a polarizing figure.
Early on in the pandemic, Magufuli downplayed the coronavirus and urged his citizens to “pray coronavirus away,” believing the “satanic virus can’t live in the body of Jesus Christ,” and blaming the growing number of positive cases on faulty test kits.
In June, he claimed his country had eradicated coronavirus “by the grace of God,” questioned the safety of foreign Covid-19 vaccines and made no plan to procure any shots for his country, instead pushing for the use of herbal medicine and steam treatments.
Tanzania hasn’t reported Covid-19 figures since April 2020, prompting the World Health Organization to call for Tanzania to publish data on the coronavirus and ramp up public health measures.
Last month, the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam warned that Covid-19 cases had been surging since January.