The Director of Tanzania’s National Health Laboratory and its quality manager have both been suspended pending investigation.
The suspension of the top officials comes a day after President John Magufuli questioned the credibility of coronavirus testing kits being used by the lab.
In a live broadcast from his hometown of Chato in north-western Tanzania yesterday, Mr Magufuli revealed that he secretly commissioned testing of randomly collected non-human samples, which were assigned names and ages.
He said some samples taken from animals and fruits returned inconclusive results, some testing negative and others showing positive results.
“Vehicle oil for instance, labelled Jabir Hamza aged 30-years-old [male], tested negative. We sent a jackfruit sample which we named Sara Samweli, a 45-year-old female – the results were inconclusive. When we sent a papaya [paw-paw] sample and named it Elizabeth Anne, aged 26 years, that papaya was positive,” said Mr Magufuli.
He added that samples from a bird and a goat both tested positive, while one from a rabbit was found to be indeterminate.
A statement from the health ministry said the minister has formed a committee of 10 people to investigate the conduct of the laboratory and submit the results by 13 May.
Testing for coronavirus will still be conducted at the laboratory.
Tanzania’s approach to fighting coronavirus has been criticised as being not strict enough and dominated by secrecy.
The government has refuted the allegations saying it carefully follows the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization.
According to the most recent health ministry figures, which were published last week, the country has 480 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 167 recoveries and 16 deaths.