Argentina’s president tests positive for COVID-19

Alberto Fernandez, who received the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus jab earlier this year, says he is in ‘good spirits’.

Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez
Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez urged people to 'be very vigilant' and follow current public health recommendations [Henry Romero/Reuters]

The president of Argentina, who was vaccinated against COVID-19 earlier this year, has announced that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Alberto Fernandez tweeted late on Friday that he had a light fever, but said he was in good spirits.

The president, who turned 62 on Friday, received a jab of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in January.

“Although I would have liked to end my birthday without this news, I am also in good spirits,” said Fernandez, who is in isolation as a precaution.

“We must be very vigilant. I ask everyone to take care of themselves by following the current recommendations. It is evident the pandemic did not pass and we must continue to take care of ourselves,” Fernandez also said on Twitter.

Argentina was the third country in the world to approve the Sputnik V jabs – after Russia and Belarus – and it began administering doses in late December.

Fernandez received a dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine at the Posadas Hospital in Buenos Aires on January 21 [Esteban Collazo/Argentina Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

The Gamaleya Institute, which developed the Russian vaccine, tweeted to Fernandez, saying that Sputnik V is 91.6 percent effective against infection and 100 percent effective against severe coronavirus cases.

“If the infection is indeed confirmed and occurs, the vaccination ensures quick recovery without severe symptoms. We wish you a quick recovery!” the institute said.

In a statement later on Saturday, the president’s doctor confirmed his positive diagnosis. “The clinical picture is mild due in large part to the protective effect of the vaccine received,” said Federico Saavedra.

Argentina, which has recorded at least 2.3 million COVID-19 cases and more than 56,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, was roiled by a vaccine scandal this year.

Former Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia resigned in February after reports emerged that people were using their connections to jump the vaccination queue. Many Argentinians took to the streets in protest over what was dubbed the VIP vaccine scandal.

Several countries across Latin America currently are experiencing a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, while hospitals and other healthcare facilities in some places are being stretched to their limits.

A woman begs for change with her children as a family walk past them, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 31, 2021 [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

Last week, the head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned that the region could see a worse spike in coronavirus infections than the one it experienced last year.

“Without preventive action, our region could face an upsurge even larger than the last one,” Carissa Etienne told reporters on March 31.

“So, let me be as clear as possible. My main guidance for places experiencing surges in transmission can be summarised in two words: stay home.”

In Argentina, the pandemic has also worsened poverty rates, with official data released last week finding that about 12 million people living in urban areas were unable to afford basic food or essential services in the second half of last year.

The poverty rate rose from 40.9 percent to 42 percent within a year in 31 large cities, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics, while more than 57 percent of children up to age 14 lived in poverty.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies