Powerful in Americas following "stay home" orders by going on vacation
By Claudia Polanco Yermanos
Montage of file photos showing (l-to-r) above Mexican Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Promotion of Health Hugo Lopez-Gatell; Brazilian soccer icon Neymar; Sao Paulo state Gov. Joao Doria; and l-to-r below Cuban singer Niurka Ramos, Chilean first lady Cecilia Morel and Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez. EFE
By Claudia Polanco Yermanos
International Desk, Jan 6 (efe-epa).- Although numerous politicians, famous people and opinion leaders across the Americas in 2020 promoted "staying at home" in speeches and on the social networks, some of them now are relaxing that stance to go on vacation, despite the fact that the Western Hemisphere is in the midst of a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic, has suffered 37 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and vaccination of priority groups has only just begun.
One of those who strongly spoke out to criticize people who have moved around freely, without respecting the restrictions imposed by their governments to contain the pandemic, was Pope Francis.
"But those people, good people, did they not think about those who stayed at home, about the economic problems faced by many people who have been floored by the lockdown, about the sick? They thought only about taking a holiday for their own pleasure. This pained me greatly," said the pontiff last Sunday.
The decision to take a few days off has already cost Canada's Ontario provincial finance minister, Rod Phillips, his job after he traveled to the Caribbean resort island of St. Barts and even pulled the stunt of posting on Twitter a fake photo apparently showing him in quarantine at home and urging the public not to leave their homes.
"Obviously I made a significant error in judgement and I will be accountable for that," he said, adding "I know that I disappointed a lot of people, I hope people appreciate I've disappointed no one more than myself" and calling it a "dumb, dumb mistake."
Canadian Prime Minister Doug Ford asked for Phillips' resignation, saying that his government "takes seriously" the idea of government officials doing what they are asking the public to do.
Also in eye of the hurricane at present is Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez, who traveled to Costa Rica with her wife, Sen. Angelica Lozano.
Colombian politicians from across the political spectrum have used the social networks to ask Lopez to resign and calling the situation "regrettable," "disgraceful" and "unfortunate" because she took her vacation just when the capital was nearing 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and so far has suffered more than 10,000 deaths from Covid-19.
Given these figures, three densely populated sections of Bogota on Tuesday began a new two-week quarantine to try and halt the spread of the virus and the skyrocketing number of hospitalizations.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro created his first controversy of 2021 by hitting the surf at a Sao Paulo beach amid a huge crowd of sunbathers and despite the fact that the virus has infected more than 7.7 million people in his country, making it the Western Hemisphere nation in the No. 2 spot in terms of infections, after the United States.
"At a time when Brazil needs peace and (behavior) to combat the pandemic and save lives, President Jair Bolsonaro attacks us once again, in a cowardly manner. The ineffectiveness and denial of the government of that president promoted the deaths of 194,000 Brazilians from Covid-19," tweeted Sao Paulo state Gov. Joao Doria, the president's political rival.
Despite Doria's stance on the matter, however, he himself had to apologize for taking a vacation to Miami on the eve of the new lockdown in his state.
As we know, Covid-19 doesn't spare anyone and Doria found himself forced to return to Sao Paulo a day after arriving in the US because Vice Governor Rodrigo Garcia, who took over the reins of the regional government during the governor's absence, was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
In addition, Brazilian soccer star Neymar, who plays for Paris Saint Germain, was questioned by many for throwing a party for some 150 invited guests at a cost of four million reais (about $800,000).
As a result, the authorities asked the sports icon to explain the event, which took place at his mansion in Mangaratiba, a beach resort in the state of Rio de Janeiro, despite the fact that the company organizing the party complied with "all the health protocols."
The vacation of Mexico's assistant secretary for the Prevention and Promotion of Health, and the country's main strategist vis-a-vis Covid-19, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, also made a negative impact when he was photographed not wearing a facemask on his plane flight to - and on the beaches of - the southern state of Oaxaca at a point when Mexico City is in a health emergency due to a massive increase in hospitalizations.
The social networks exploded with criticism of the official and even a lawmaker with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) called on him to apologize and resign but when Lopez-Gatell returned he said he didn't have "anything to hide" because, he said, he followed his own directive to only socialize in small groups over the yearend holidays.
Another person who garnered reprimands on Twitter and Instagram was English singer Dua Lipa, whom some called a "Covidiot" after images circulated showing her surrounded by her girlfriends and her boyfriend, Anwar Hadid, at the Tulum seaside resort, where health safety measures remain in effect until Jan. 15.
Similarly, Cuban dancer and actress Niurka Marcos was "castigated" by her fans after photos of her more recent trip to the Yucatan city of Merida along with about 13 other people made the rounds on the social networks.
Her behavior sparked indignation among many, given that besides not remaining at home as she had asked her fans to do in December, Marcos and her entourage did not social distance or use facemasks.
In Chile, it was first lady Cecilia Morel's turn for ridicule when she made a 10-day trip to Miami with two of her daughters just two weeks after the country reopened its borders and when coronavirus cases have once again begun to climb in Chile.
Morel's office said that it was a "family" trip and all bio-security protocols were observed, but the controversy touched her husband - President Sebastian Piñera - who on the social networks was accused of having a "double standard" by asking the public to stay at home while his family enjoyed vacations abroad.