Tanzania to spend $470 million on vaccines, coronavirus-damaged economy

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FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Dar es Salaam

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania will spend $470 million buying vaccines and supporting economic sectors hit hard by the coronavirus, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Monday.

Since Hassan took office after the death of then-president John Magufuli in March, the government has changed tack from playing down the pandemic to calling for social distancing and emphasising mask wearing in public.

Issuing the first data on infections since May 2020, Hassan said there were more than 100 COVID-19 patients in Tanzania as of last Saturday, with 70 of them being provided oxygen.

Half of the cash will be spent on vaccines, protective gear and other medical equipment, Hassan said, with the rest going to stimulate sectors that are reeling from the crisis.

She did not give details about the sectors but tourism, one of the top foreign exchange earners, has been one of the worst hit.

"There are many organisations which are ready to support us," she told Tanzanian news editors.

There is currently no coronavirus vaccination programme in Tanzania, but the country has applied to join the World Health Organization-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing project.

The government is working with healthcare partners to develop a plan to distribute vaccines.

"Any Tanzanian who wants to be inoculated will be inoculated," Hassan said.

(GRAPHIC-COVID-19 Global Tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/)

(Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen; Writing by Duncan Miriri; editing by Grant McCool)

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