Tuesday, February 20, 2024

ARGENTINA | 20-06-2020 08:44

Covid-19 surge concerns officials, as politicians join sick list

Argentina records more than 2,000 infections in a day for first time since crisis began; María Eugenia Vidal tests positive, President Fernández told to limit activity, stay home.

Argentina recorded more than 2,000 Covid-19 infections in a day for the first time on Friday, as fears of a coronavirus surge escalated and officials huddled to debate their next steps.

At a joint press conference, Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof warned that more "drastic" measures were on the way should the acceleration of infections in the metropolitan area continue. 

"If it continues like this, it will be necessary to go to something much more drastic," warned the Kirchnerite governor, speaking at a press conference in La Plata.

Rodríguez Larreta also said he was “concerned” about the rise in cases in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area and said a return to a strict lockdown was a possibility.

"If we have to take more drastic measures to take care of people's health, our pulse will not waver," said the City mayor.

The duo spoke after a meeting at La Plata with provincial Security Minister Sergio Berni and the City's Deputy Mayor Diego Santilli.

Speaking ahead of the daily release of coronavirus numbers, the duo revealed that a total of 2,060 new cases had been recorded throughout the country, pushing the total number of infections up to 39,570. Kicillof said around 1,200 of the new cases were in his province, with 800 in the capital. 

The Health Ministry later confirmed those numbers, adding that 31 new fatalities were registered Friday, lifting the death toll to 979. 

Earlier this week, both the City and provincial governments agreed to limit circulation as much as possible, limiting the use of public transport to essential workers only and revoking all circulation permits and asking residents to re-apply for them. Limits were also placed on residents wishing to leave their homes for exercise.

At present, the quarantine lockdown is set to expire on June 28, though rumours this week suggested it may be extended.

Vidal tests positive

The surge in infections even seen some of Arghas led to increased concern about the circulation of the virus, fears that even spread to high-profile lawmakers and public officials. 

On Wednesday, former Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal confirmed that she had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The news of the opposition leader’s diagnosis came one day after Buenos Aires Province lawmaker Alex Campbell also tested positive – news that led to a host of other public officials undergoing tests. Vidal had been in close contact with the provincial deputy in recent days, hence why she was tested. 

"I want to tell you that a couple of hours ago I was confirmed as positive for Covid-19. I thank all those who are writing to me with concern. I am fine, complying with the isolation and the corresponding medical indications. Take care of yourselves and your families," said Vidal in a tweet confirming the news.

Officials close to Vidal confirmed that the former governor – who lost last year's election to Kicillof – had felt "light symptoms" and reported feeling tired and a loss of appetite. She has not suffered a fever, sources confirmed to Perfil.

Vidal is the first high-profile name from Argentina's political landscape to be infected with the virus. Last week, Lomas de Zamora's Peronist Mayor Martín Insaurralde also tested positive for Covid-19. 

Among the other officials tested for Covid-19 was Rodríguez Larreta. According to reports, two tests on the Juntos por el Cambio leader came back negative.

Fernández grounded

Amid fears over the rise in infections, President Fernández's personal doctor recommended the Peronist leader limit his contact "as much as possible" and remain at the Olivos presidential residence.

In a statement released at midday on Wednesday, the president's personal physician, Dr. Federico Saavedra, said the leader should limit his activity and contact with other individuals under further notice.

The measure was taken as a result of "the progression in the number of positive cases registered in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area that shows a significant increase in viral circulation," said Saavedra, the head of the Presidential Medical Unit. 

The president must "restrict interpersonal contact as much as possible" and take "care to mitigate the effects of Covid-19," the statement read.

The Presidential Medical Unit (UMP) was created in 2008, with a team of 18 doctors. During the administration of former President Mauricio Macri, it consisted of 11 cardiologists, four surgeons, two clinical doctors and a paediatrician. Dr Saavedra, who has been Fernández's personal doctor for more than a decade, was asked to head up the post upon the Peronist leader taking office.

Fernández, 61, has been active around the country, touring a number of factories and local municipalities, accompanied by delegations of public officials. He cancelled a trip to Rosario just a few days ago at the last minute, after Lomas de Zamaro's Peronist Mayor Martín Insaurralde tested positive for Covid-19.

Dr Saavedra recommended that the president, effective immediately, maintain "preventive and obligatory social distancing," only attending "trips or face-to-face meetings considered of vital importance and [that] cannot be postponed or held with reduced delegations."

Once news of the statement broke, conspiracy theories and rumours about the Peronist leader’s health began to spread online. Fernández, however, said he is feeling fine, describing his condition as “perfect.”


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