President Alberto Fernández said Tuesday that he had sent a letter to his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, wishing him a speedy recovery, after the Brazilian president confirmed he had tested positive for Covid-19.
Bolsonaro announced earlier in the day that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, though he said he was "perfectly fine." He said he had only mild symptoms and that he is taking hydroxichloroquine, an anti-malaria medicine he's been touting as being effective against the virus.
"I just sent a note wishing the president of Brazil, who is infected with the coronavirus, a speedy recovery, in a world where the pandemic is not subsiding," Fernández told the press after a meeting with Christian business leaders.
Some hours later, a copy of the letter emerged, revealing the text of Fernández's message.
"The danger of this pandemic is manifested in the levels of contagion. This virus does not distinguish between its rulers and the ruled. We are all threatened and that is why extreme care must be taken," he wrote.
"In this difficult hour, receive my greetings and solidarity with the people of Brazil," he wrote.
In a closing flourish, the Peronist leader close the letter with the word "sinceramente" – a common enough closing, though also notable as being the title of Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's bestselling memoir. Bolsonaro is a sharp critic of Argentina's former leader.
The two leaders have been at loggerheads since the Peronist leader took office last December, with the Brazilian far-right leader snubbing Fernández's inauguration. The two are split by deep ideological differences and Argentina's most important bilateral relationship has suffered as a result. Last week, however, they were both attendees of a virtual Mercosur summit, which passed off without friction.
The differences between Fernández and Bolsonaro have also been reflected in their approach to the coronavirus pandemic. Argentina was placed under a strict lockdown on March 20 following the recommendation of the World Health Organisation. While some provinces have had measures relaxed, in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) restrictions remain in place. In contrast, Bolsonaro minimised the virus from the off, with the push for quarantine measures led by state governments.
The 65-year-old populist has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, at times without a mask. He has said that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus, and that it would be nothing more than a “little flu” were he to contract it.
According to figures on Tuesday, 1.6 million people have been infected in Brazil and 65,487 have died of Covid-19 in Brazil, although specialists estimate that the actual number of cases could be up to 10 times higher and the death toll, double.
Argentina, which is going through the worst moment of the pandemic from the local perspective, has more than 83,000 confirmed cases, with 1,644 deaths. More than 95 percent of infections are in the AMBA region.