Tanzania's President John Magufuli has died aged 61, the country's vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan said announced. In a statement, he was said died from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Mr Magufuli had not been seen in public for weeks, with rumours being circulating about his health. Opposition politicians said that he had contracted Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed.

Born in Chato, he was one of Africa's most prominent coronavirus sceptics, and called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus. He declared Tanzania "Covid-19 free" since last June.

In an announcement, Vice-President Hassan said: "It is with deep regret that I inform you that... we lost our brave leader, the president of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli." She said there would be 14 days of national mourning and flags would fly at half-mast.

According to Tanzania's constitution, Ms Hassan will be sworn in as the new president within 24 hours and should serve the remainder of Mr Magufuli's five-year term which he began last year. President Magufuli was last seen in public on February 27, but Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa insisted that the president was healthy and working hard.

He blamed the rumours of the president's ill-health on "hateful" Tanzanians living abroad. But opposition leader Tundu Lissu said that he was informed that Mr Magufuli was being treated in hospital for coronavirus in Kenya.

When Covid-19 arrived in Tanzania, Mr Magufuli called on people to go to churches and mosques to pray. "Coronavirus, which is a devil, cannot survive in the body of Christ... It will burn instantly," he said. Saying that the virus had been eradicated by three days of national prayer, the president also mocked the efficacy of masks, expressed doubts about testing, and teased neighbouring countries which imposed health measures to curb the virus.

Tanzania has not published details of its coronavirus cases since May, and the government has refused to purchase vaccines. The police said they had arrested four people on suspicion of spreading rumours on social media that the president was ill.

A former chemistry and maths teacher, he was 61.