The Minister of Health in Tanzania Ummy Mwalimu on Monday suspended with immediate effect the Managing Director of the National Community Health Laboratory Nyambura Muremi after President John Magufuli questioned Covid-19 tests conducted by the institution.
Dr Moremi and the institution’s Quality Control Manager Jacob Lusekelo have been suspended to pave way for a probe into the Covid-19 cases that Magufuli claimed were inflated.
The Minister appointed a 10-man special committee headed by Prof Eligius Lyamuya to investigate the collection and testing of Covid-19 samples and to present its findings within 10 days.
Moremi has been the director of the national laboratory for nearly two years.
The suspensions come just a day after President Magufuli dismissed imported coronavirus testing kits as faulty, saying they returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw.
Magufuli made the remarks during an event in his home town of Chato where he has been since the outbreak of the pandemic on Sunday. He said there were “technical errors” with the tests.
President Magufuli said the findings revealed that something was amiss at the national laboratory, accusing the officials of releasing too many positive Covid-19 results.
As of the last update issued by Tanzania, a total of 480 people had tested positive for Covid-19.
Magufuli, whose government has already drawn criticism for being secretive about the coronavirus outbreak and has previously asked Tanzanians to pray the coronavirus away, said he had instructed Tanzanian security forces to check the quality of the kits.
They had randomly obtained several non-human samples, including from a pawpaw, a goat and a sheep, but had assigned them human names and ages.
These samples were then submitted to Tanzania’s laboratory to test for coronavirus, with the lab technicians left deliberately unaware of their origins.
Samples from the pawpaw and the goat tested positive for Covid-19, the president said, adding this meant it was likely that some people were being tested positive when, in fact, they were not infected by the coronavirus.
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