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ARGENTINA | 06-02-2021 10:21

Theatres, football clubs join fight against Covid-19

Buenos Aires’ legendary Teatro Colón and some of the capital’s most beloved football clubs are assisting the battle against coronavirus, becoming testing and vaccinating sites.

Whether a Covid-19 testing centre in the legendary Teatro Colón or a vaccination point at River Plate football club’s famed Monumental stadium, Argentina is looking to venues beyond the traditional health system to expand its fight against coronavirus.

Closing in on two million confirmed cases of contagion and with the death toll topping 48,000, the government launched its nationwide campaign of voluntary vaccination on December 29, giving priority to health personnel and those aged over 70.

The only vaccine available to Argentina at the moment is Sputnik V, produced by the Russian lab Gamaleya, whose effectiveness of over 91 percent has just been scientifically established.

Argentina, the first country in Latin America to apply the Russian shot, has so far received 820.000 doses out of the over 19 million contracted for delivery by the end of this month. 

The ‘message’ of the clubs

Located in Núñez, River Plate’s facilities make up one of the 28 Buenos Aires non-hospital posts where health personnel administer vaccinations to citizens. Around the stadium, the silence of those arriving for their vaccinations and then their departure contrasts with the once-familiar scenes of rowdy fans warming up before matches.

“The idea of clubs participating is a message because they have enormous social representation,” City Hall health official Gabriel Batistela explained to AFP.

The gleaming parquet floors of River’s basketball micro-stadium are covered with neat vaccination boxes, attended by some 90 staff every day of the week. The target is 450 vaccinations a day. Once vaccinated according to each shift, the recipients wait for half an hour in observation cubicles to monitor possible adverse reactions.

Psychologist Silvia Fraiman, 68, is one of them.

“They’ve just vaccinated me, I’m very moved and grateful to the national government for getting vaccines for everybody,” she told AFP. 

In the next stages, the facilities of clubs including Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo, Huracán, Vélez Sarsfield, Racing and Atlanta will all function as non-hospital vaccination posts.

The participation of the clubs “adds a plus to the penetration of the vaccination message,” said Batistela.

Apart from football stadiums, vaccination posts will also be installed at museums, cultural centres, foundations, neighbourhood clubs and centres for pensioners, City Hall informed. 

To the theatre – for a swab

Since last weekend, the historic Pasaje de los Carruajes carriageway, leading to the ticket offices of the emblematic Teatro Colón has been used for Covid-19 swabs. At the theatre’s cobblestoned entrance, queues of spectators have turned now patients with symptoms compatible with disease, awaiting swabs from health staff.

In the middle of the corridor, the elegant ticket offices of the theatre – closed since last March when the pandemic brought the curtain down – remain closed. Although performances with protocols have returned to some commercial theatres in the city, the Colón remains shuttered. 

Theatre director María Alcaraz summoned the Colón’s workers and artists, asking them to collaborate with the campaign against Covid-19.

“For the Teatro Colón this is perhaps the most important and emblematic opera or play of its entire existence – lending its infrastructure to a health cause,” she told the press.

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by SONIA AVALOS & MAGALI CERVANTES, AFP

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