Five Presidents’ Absurd Responses to Covid-19

President Jair Bolsonaro during a press conference, after meeting with his cabinet about the measures his government has adopted with respect to the Coronavirus. Photo: EFE

While other presidents sharpen their measures to avoid contagion from Covid-19, these presidents “prescribe” kisses, hugs and marches.

By Keyling T. Romero (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Despite the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel Coronavirus a pandemic, hoping to obligate governments to take “urgent and aggressive measures” to slow its spread, a number of presidents in Latin America, including Daniel Ortega, have taken the measures lightly. In Nicaragua, Ortega delegated the emergency to his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, who responded by calling for marches and suggesting hugs, ignoring the principal recommendations for avoiding contagion.

“Several counties have shown that this virus can be suppressed and controlled. The challenge for many countries facing cases of community transmission isn’t if they can do the same, but if they will do so,” stated Tedros Adhanom, director of the WHO, during the declaration that the Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic.

By March 22, the number of confirmed cases was more than 350,000, and the number of deaths had reached 15,000. The principal recommendations are to avoid large gatherings or physical contact, and to maintain a vigilant handwashing practice. However, these leaders, as we detail below, are turning a blind eye to the experts’ advice.

AMLO of Mexico: “We must embrace each other, it’s nothing”

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

To be sure, he spoke this phrase two weeks before the WHO declared the virus a pandemic. However, after the announcement, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) continued visiting several Mexican cities and sharing kisses and embraces with his followers. In a video he posted to his Twitter account he can be seen kissing a little girl on the cheek.

The contradiction in this behavior is that the Mexicn Secretary of Health urged Mexicans not to greet each other with kisses and hugs, and even presented a plan which includes the temporary suspension of activities on the part of the public and private sector, and the suspension of large events.

Maduro: “It’s a viral strain created as biological warfare against China”

Nicolás Maduro

After announcing the creation of a special commission to take on the topic of the Coronavirus, the Venezuelan ruler affirmed that this virus is surely a biological weapon to attack China. He offered these declarations last February 20, when there were still no confirmed cases in this South American country.

A few days ago, he once again referred to this topic, assuring that Venezuela now had a cure. “Cuba, as always, is in the vanguard with Interferon (a medication used for multiple sclerosis, cancer, or hepatitis”), a pill that has had excellent results in China,” he declared.

Rosario Murillo: “Love in the times of Covid-19”

One of the Ortega government rallies to fight coronavirus with “love”

Nicaragua is one of the countries that has shown the greatest secrecy with respect to the pandemic. The Ortega-Murillo regime hasn’t declared a quarantine, and up until a week ago their protocol for responding and preparing for the virus was unknown. The country also hasn’t spoken about implementing preventive measures, as the neighboring countries are doing. However, in response to increased social pressure, the authorities began an awareness campaign that included a rally with the slogan: “Love in times of Covid-19”.

“All over the world, (there is) brotherhood, affection, and for that reason we say, we will walk as brothers and sisters in affection, peace and love; learning, in the neighborhoods and communities, to take care of us all together, alert, responsible and preventive education, a lot of dedication,” said Murillo.

In this party rally, government supporters walked from the University Avenue to the Walkway of the Students. Many carried signs with information about the pandemic and the presence of people dressed as nurses could be noted. Nonetheless, this march came under criticism for risking the health of Nicaraguans.  

Trump: “When the warm weather comes, (Covid-19) will disappear

On February 10, the US president assured that the virus would miraculously disappear when the warm weather began in April. Health experts criticized his remarks as irresponsible, since there is no scientific basis that this is how Covid-19 behaves.

Two weeks after offering those declarations, he stated that the novel Coronavirus is nothing but a flu. However, in more recent days, Trump’s position changed, and the country began to carry out stricter preventive measures, such as canceling flights to Europe, and closing the border to those coming from 26 European countries, among other measures.

“The virus won’t have a chance against us. … No country is more prepared. We’re all together in this. We should put politics aside, stop the polarization and come together as one nation and one family,” he stated.

Bolsonaro: “Economic interests are behind this hysteria”

Brazilian presidente Jair Bolsonaro

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s own test for the presence of Covid-19 came up negative. He was tested following suspicion of possible contagion from a government minister.

Even when the number of confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus in Brazil had reached 200 [now it is 1,620], the president of this country believed that canceling mass events such as soccer matches is an exaggerated response. To him, this would be falling into “hysteria”, and it would bring nothing but economic harm.

“We must take the pertinent sanitary measures (in the face of the virus) but we can’t enter into neurosis, as if it were the end of the world,” he told CNN Brazil on March 15. Bolsonaro himself had a possible case of Coronavirus, when a person around him tested positive for the virus after returning with him from a presidential visit in the United States.  

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