Police in Tanzania on Tuesday arrested four nationals on accusations of spreading “rumours” on social media that President John Magufuli was ailing.

This comes barely a week after Tanzania’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa announced that 61-year-old Magufuli, who has not been seen in public for three weeks, was “healthy and working hard”.

However, opposition leaders led by exiled Tundu Lissu have claimed that the president was seriously ill after allegedly contracting Covid-19 and was flown abroad for urgent attention.

“To spread rumours that he's sick smacks of hate,” Majaliwa said on Friday in response to the reports circulating on social media and also reported by the media outlets in Kenya.

On Monday, the country’s Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan also told the Tanzanian public to ignore rumours spreading on Magufuli and instead remain united and pray for him.

“It's quite normal for anybody to be afflicted by illness, to contract flu or a fever. This is the time for Tanzanians to be united through prayer,” she added.

There has been growing concerns on the President's health, with Lissu last week claiming sources had told him that Magufuli was being treated for Covid-19 in a Nairobi hospital.

But Tanzanian state officials have denied the Magufuli ill health claims, instead warning Tanzanian citizens and media against unverified reports, warning of dire consequences.