The Minister of Health in Tanzania Ummy Mwalimu has ordered the suspension of the Managing Director of the National Community Health Laboratory Nyambura Muremi after President John Pombe Magufuli questioned COVID-19 tests conducted by the institution.
In a statement sent out to the media on Monday, Mwalimu also directed the secretariat to suspend the institution’s quality control manager Jacob Lusekelo to pave way for a probe into the COVID-19 cases that Magufuli claimed were inflated.
The Miniter appointed a special committee that will be in charge of the investigations.
The committee of nine members is expected to commence the probe immediately and submit a report not later than May 13, 2020.
During the investigations periods, the Health Minister said the laboratory will continue to test samples.
The committee will be chaired by Prof. Eligius Lyamuya from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences.
Members of the committee include Prof. Said Aboud (Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences), Prof. Gabriel (Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Prof. Steven Mshana (Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences), Prof. Rudovick Kazwala (Sokoine University Of Agriculture), Dr. Thomas Marandu (Sokoine University Of Agriculture).
Others are Dr. Mabula Kasubi (Muhimbili National Hospital), Dr. Danstan Hipolite (Tanzania Medicine & Medical Devices Authority Home), Mrs Viola Msangi and Mr. Jaffer Sufi both retired laboratory technicians.
Speaking on Sunday during the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-appointed Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Dr Mwigulu Nchemba, Magufuli voiced his reservations about the accuracy of the COVID-19 test results released by the laboratory saying they were unrealistic.
The Head of State noted that his security team sent samples from a bird, pawpaw fruit, jackfruit, goat, sheep, rabbit and oil to the laboratory for tests and the results were shocking.
According to the President, the samples from the pawpaw fruit and goat tested positive for COVID-19 while the remaining samples either turned negative or the results were not conclusive.
Magufuli said the samples were labelled with names of people and their ages. He wondered how the researchers couldn’t differentiate the samples from those obtained from human beings.
The President said either the donated testing kits that are being used are faulty or some “frauds” are out to fight him politically
He called on the new Minister for Justice and Constitution Affairs, who replaces Ambassador Augustine Mahiga who died on Friday, to investigate the matter.
So far, Tanzania has reported a total of 480 cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths.