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Can I Climb Kilimanjaro During the Coronavirus Pandemic? COVID-19 in Tanzania (Updated May 7, 2021)

Just one month after coronavirus was declared a global pandemic in 2020, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli announced that Tanzania was free of Covid-19. The country then abruptly stopped publishing official data on the number of coronavirus cases. All travel restrictions were lifted.

President Magufuli, a coronavirus skeptic, died in late March 2021. He was 61 years old. The cause of death was reported as heart failure, though there are rumors he passed from Covid-19.

His successor, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced in April 2021 that she will assemble a panel of experts to advise her on how deal with the spread of the coronavirus. This is a complete reversal of the former President’s stance on the existence of the virus.

“We cannot isolate ourself as an island,” President Hassan stated. “We cannot accept everything from abroad, but we also cannot reject everything.”

New travel restrictions have been implemented (see below).

Standard Operating Procedures

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism released National Standard Operating Procedures for management of the Covid-19 threat. The comprehensive 16 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. Personal protective equipment 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.

Our clients should expect the following:

  • Tourists will be subjected to a temperature check on arrival at the airport, park gate, and hotels. Individuals showing signs or symptoms of Covid-19 on arrival in Tanzania will be directed to a medical team for further consultation.
  • All mountain crew will wear masks when they are in vehicles, at the park gate and while they are at camp. Hotel staff will wear masks when interacting with clients.
  • All mountain crew and hotel staff will maintain a distance of at least three feet (one meter) from clients. However, in dealing with a medical emergency, it may be necessary to be in closer proximity.
  • It is mandatory for all clients to wear a mask when travelling in vehicles and when in public places. Clients are required to supply their own masks. Medical masks (KN95, N95, surgical masks) and non-medical face coverings (cloth mask, neck gaiter, Buff) are both sufficient.
  • Clients should carry hand sanitizer on their person at all times. Clients are required to supply their own hand sanitizer.

Please read Ultimate Kilimanjaro’s Summary of the Standard Operating Procedures or the full Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism’s National Standard Operating Procedures for more details.

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.

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.

We have not had any clients become infected due to their trip to Tanzania.

Traveling to Tanzania

On May 3, 2021, Tanzania issued a travel advisory that required travelers to complete a Traveler’s Surveillance Form online. This form must be filled out online at afyamsafiri.moh.go.tz within 24 hours before arrival to Tanzania. There is wifi at Kilimanjaro International Airport, so it is possible to complete the form upon arrival.

All travelers are required to present a negative Covid-19 test. The test must be a PCR Test that was done within 72 hours of arrival in Tanzania. Some travelers, from countries with a “high number” of Covid-19 cases, may be subject to enhanced screening, including a Rapid Test administered upon arrival. We are not responsible for clients who are denied entry due to failure to meet Tanzania’s regulations. Please read the full Travel Advisory here.

On May 4, 2021, the Tanzanian government banned flights to and from India. Read the complete Travel Advisory here.

However, there may be requirements by your home country or by countries you pass through while traveling to and from Tanzania. Below are recent rules enacted by the Netherlands and by the United States.

Netherlands

Many people from the USA use KLM or Delta to fly to Tanzania. These flights connect in KLM’s hub in Amsterdam. Passengers who are transferring in Amsterdam are required to show negative Covid-19 PCR test results to fly to Amsterdam if you are coming from a country outside the EU area.

The negative test results must be in English, German, French, Spanish or Dutch. The documents must include the following information:

  • PCR Test: test sample must have been collected no more than 72 hours prior to arrival in the Netherlands; the test result must be negative (or ‘not detected’);
  • Passenger’s first and last name as stated in their passport;
  • Dates and times the passenger was tested:
  • Name and contact information of the institute or laboratory that conducted the test.

Note that negative test results are required for both ways, flying to Kilimanjaro and returning from Kilimanjaro. This means you will need to be tested in Tanzania and have the result before departing.

Read the Netherland’s official announcement here.

United States of America

Clients returning to the USA after their trip are required to show a negative Covid-19 test. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers before they board in Tanzania.

The CDC issued an Order requiring all air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country to provide proof of the negative result before boarding the flight. Passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline. Passengers who have previously had Covid-19 can provide documentation of having recovered from the virus instead.

This Order will go into effect on January 26, 2021.

Read the CDC’s announcement here.

Covid Testing in Tanzania

There are PCR Covid-19 testing centers in Moshi and Arusha.

  • Mawenzi Referral Hospital (Moshi)
  • Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (Moshi)
  • Mount Meru Referral Hospital (Arusha)
  • Selian Lutheran Hospital (Arusha)
  • FAME Medical Health Center (Karatu)

The hours for these testing centers are:

  • Monday through Friday – 9:00am to 3:30pm
  • Saturday and Sunday – 10:00am to 12:30pm

There is also a collection center in the Serengeti. The Seronera Covid-19 sample collection center allows clients to get tested while on a safari.

Note that all of the abovementioned locations are collection centers. The actual testing is conducted in the National Laboratory in Dar es Salaam. Swabs done after 11:30am are sent to National Laboratory the next day.

Reservations are required and can be made online at: pimacovid.moh.go.tz.

Covid-19 Testing Portal

To make a reservation, under BOOK COVID-19 TEST, enter your passport number, the region (select Kilimanjaro region for Moshi) of the testing center, the name of the testing center, and the test date. Then fill out the traveler information.

Here are some translations for the questions that may be unclear:

  • Tarehe ya kuzaliwa – birthdate
  • Mwisha wa safari – destination of travel
  • Tarehe ya kusafiri – date of travel

When submitted, you will see this statement, “Umefanikiwa kuweka nafasi kwenye mfumo ya kupata nafasi ya kufanya kipimo cha COVID-19.” This means, “You have successfully placed a system on the system to get a chance to perform a COVID-19 test.”

The certificate will be available on the same site, under CERTIFICATE. Enter your passport number to access.

The cost of Covid-19 test is USD 100. However all payments must be made on site in Tanzania Shillings (Sh230,000). Our staff can assist in transferring to the test center, making payments and getting the results.

NOTE: It currently takes between 24 to 48 hours to receive test results.

There are no public rapid testing centers in Tanzania. However, KLM has set up Rapid Testing at the airport exclusively for their passengers. Therefore, clients flying on KLM/Delta can get a Rapid Test at JRO prior to departure. It is recommended that you arrive four hours before your flight time.

See the Covid Testing Guide for People Traveling Abroad from Tanzania’s Ministry of Health for more information.

In the past, most our clients left Tanzania the day after climbing Kilimanjaro or going on a safari. But due to travel restrictions imposed by other countries, we now suggest that clients should stay 3 days after their climb or safari in order to take the Covid-19 test and receive the lab results.

Please plan your trip diligently in order to comply with any travel requirements that may be imposed. We cannot be responsible for any delays and missed trips due to failure to abide by any country’s Covid-19 regulations.

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 7, 2021, more than 3,260,000 people globally have died from the coronavirus, with over 150 million infections confirmed. Every country in the world has reported cases of coronavirus.

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 April 29, 2020, the last day official coronavirus data was released, Tanzania had 509 cases 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 0.26% to 0.65%, 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.

There are now nine approved vaccines for Covid-19 with efficacy rates of up to 95% that are being distributed around the world. Many more remain in development. We are hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end in the upcoming months.

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See Rescheduling Trips Due to Coronavirus

See Is it Safe to Visit Tanzania Now?

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