Can I Climb Kilimanjaro During the Coronavirus Pandemic? COVID-19 in Tanzania (Updated May 18, 2020)

On May 17, 2020, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli announced that there would be no more restrictions against travelers coming to the country. He called for the airlines to resume flights into Tanzania immediately.

Previously, the government subjected foreigners to a mandatory 14 day quarantine, effectively eliminating tourism for the East African destination for mountain climbing and safaris. This measure has now been lifted.

The high season for tourists normally begins in July and lasts until October. However, it is estimated that the country will experience a 76% drop in visitors this year due to the novel coronavirus. Employment in the tourism industry is expected to fall from 623,000 jobs to 146,000 jobs.

New Standard Operating Procedures

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism released National Standard Operating Procedures for management of the COVID-19 threat. The comprehensive seven page document detailed the rules put in place to continue operations while at the same time protecting visitors.

Some of the items included in the procedures include:

  • thermal screening for arriving passengers
  • all contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis
  • staff members must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when attending to guests and servicing guest areas
  • hand washing and sanitizing facilities must be provided to guests and staff
  • staff members should maintain a distance from one another and from guests

Our staff on Mount Kilimanjaro are required to take extra precautions when packing, transporting, and preparing food and equipment for climbers. PPE will be worn by staff when interacting with guests. The number of staff who interact with guests and the frequency of those interactions will also be limited accordingly.

Ultimate Kilimanjaro® is fully operational at this time. We have put reasonable and practical safety measures in place.

As long as our clients feel comfortable to travel here, we are prepared to serve them. We believe that the new standard operating procedures will be effective in minimizing the risk of infections on the mountain and during safari.

For clients who would like to follow social distancing with other climbers, we offer single tents on the mountain and single rooms on safari or in town. Meals can also be eaten in the sleeping tent versus the community mess tent if desired.

Coronavirus in Tanzania

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, was officially declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The outbreak was declared a global health emergency in January 2020. 

As of May 18, 2020, more than 318,000 people globally have died from the coronavirus, with over 4,800,000 infections confirmed. Every country in Africa has reported cases of coronavirus totaling more than 84,000 cases and 2,764 deaths.

The first confirmed case of coronavirus appeared in Tanzania on March 16, 2020. Since then, the number of cases has grown not unlike the rest of the world has experienced.

The outbreak prompted air travel restrictions into the continent. Many African countries stopped flights to and from countries considered to be high risk. By March 25, many airlines had stopped flying to Tanzania.

As of May 18, 2020, Tanzania has had 509 cases of coronavirus and 21 COVID-19 related deaths.

This interactive site created by researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows the confirmed cases, deaths and number who have recovered.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can infect the respiratory tract and cause symptoms like a runny nose, cough, sore throat, and fever. Coronaviruses are common. In fact, almost everyone gets infected with a kind of coronavirus at some point. Usually, the symptoms are mild and last for just a few days. 

According to Arnaud Fontanet, head of the department of epidemiology at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, the new strain is the seventh known type of coronavirus that humans can contract. Fontanet said the current virus strain was 80% genetically identical to SARS, which also causes severe breathing problems.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Experts believe the source may have been animals sold at the Wuhan market that passed to the human population.

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill. According to a recent WHO report, the most common symptoms include:

  • Fever (88% of cases)
  • Dry cough (68%)
  • Fatigue (38%)
  • Sputum production (33%)
  • Shortness of breath (19%)
  • Muscle or joint pain (15%)
  • Sore throat (14%)
  • Headache (14%)
  • Chills (11%)
  • Nausea or vomiting (5%)
  • Nasal congestion (5%)
  • Diarrhea (4%)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. 

The mean incubation period is estimated to be 5.1 days, and 97.5% of patients who have symptoms do so within 11.5 days of infection.

Spread is by contact with infected secretions or by large aerosol droplets, so close contact increases risk of transmission. Coronaviruses are more easily spread among hospitalized or institutionalized populations or others in closed conditions. It is believed that COVID-19 is more contagious than the typical flu.

Most recent estimates put the fatality rate for COVID-19 to be between 0.27% to 1.0%, mostly affecting those with underlying, high risk conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and COPD.

Those with compromised immune systems should be weary about traveling during the pandemic. However, the prognosis for those will no health conditions and those under 60 years of age appears very good. Up to 50% of all cases may be asymptomatic.

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See Rescheduling Trips Due to Coronavirus

See Should I be Concerned About Ebola While Climbing Kilimanjaro?

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