Yesterday, the President of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, surprised us (and everyone) when using the Basque Health System as a comparison to Argentina’s in its handling of the pandemic.

And he did so by pointing out what a bad example it was, and how it was overwhelmed, even reaching the point of having to turn people away.  His exact words were:

Si uno tiene algunas experiencias que se han dado en Europa, uno se da cuenta que cuando el sistema de salud se satura la mortalidad se duplica o triplica. Esto es lo que pasó por ejemplo en el País Vasco cuando se vio saturada la atención en los sanatorios y lamentablemente hubo que elegir quién se salvaba y quién se moría

“If one has some of the experiences that happened in Europe, one realizes that when the health system is saturated, mortality doubles or triples.  This is what happened, for example, in the Basque Country, when its hospitals were overrun, and unfortunately choices had to be made as to who would be saved and who would die.”·

The first time we, and half of Argentina, heard this news about these claims, on Friday night, we thought the journalist must have been mistaken and misunderstood the reference to the Basque Country.  But no.  We’ve seen the video and that is exactly what the President of Argentina said.

One of the media covering the event, the El Clarín, which we’ve linked to below, had this to say:

Ese caso lo escuchó de boca de uno de los infectólogos que lo asesora en el comité de expertos al que recurre para tomar medidas en la cuarentena. Según el relato, el nivel de contagios en esa zona europea los encontró sin los recursos sanitarios necesarios para afrontar la crisis, como por ejemplo, con falta de respiradores. También el asunto ha aparecido en las charlas que mantiene Fernández con el presidente español Pedro Sánchez“.

“He heard about that case from one of the infectious disease specialists advising in the expert committee he turns to in order to take quarantine measures.  According to the story, the level of infections in that part of Europe was lacking the necessary health resources to face the crisis, such as, for example, the lack of ventilators.  The matter also came up in the talks Fernández has had with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.”

We’d really like to know what the Spanish Prime Minister has been saying about the Basque health care system that would lead Fernández to believe that it could be used as a model of what not to do in Argentina.  We wish he had also asked the authorities in Soria.  Back when Fernández thinks the Basque health care system was letting patients die, Soria was receiving aid from the Basque Country to attend to the all the patients that were overwhelming their health care system.

Una gran lona con el anuncio de Soria lucía desde ayer en la estación de metro de Sarriko, en Bilbao. / BORJA AGUDO
A large sign at the Sarriko metro station in Bilbao, when Soria thanked the Basque Country / BORJA AGUDO

He could also have pointed out how the Basque Country and Argentina compare on the amount of money spent per person between Argentina and the Basque Country: Argentina, 849 € and the Basque Country, 1,650 €. (Data from 2017).

Most of the Argentine media reporting on this do so without checking the veracity of the claim, and mixing the data from the Basque Country with that of Spain as a whole.  That’s what Clarín did in a report on the Argentine President’s statements, leading readers to erroneously believe that 260,255 people in the Basque Country have been infected, when that number actually applied to Spain.  In the Basque Country, it’s only 14,177, which is 5.4% of the total number of those who’ve tested positive in all of Spain.

Similarly, Argentina media seem determined to reference the data on the Basque Country that’s come out of a non-official publication on COVIDModel.es, where the data is laid out by Autonomous Communities, and where a glance will show that the data out of the Basque Country is far from the worst in the comparison.

The biggest exception we’ve found so far to this “acritical” look at the Argentine President’s statements is from the Buenos Aires-based economic newspaper El Cronista, in which Cecilia Frías contradicts President Fernández’s statements and tells what really happened in the Basque Autonomous Community.

The news website Todo Noticias also analyzed the reports about the evolution of the pandemic in Basque newspapers and reached a conclusion that is quite similar to the first impression we had when reading the news: the Argentine President seemed to be referring more to the situation that occurred in northern Italy than to what happened in the Basque Country.

We’re not sure which infectious disease specialist made Fernández believe that the Basque Health System was an example to avoid following.  We’re also unsure of what opinions the Spanish Prime Minister may have shared.  Either way, either he was given incorrect information, or he didn’t understand what he was told.

The first, and official, response Mr. Fernández received was from the FEVA, the Federation of Basque-Argentine Bodis.  This organization, which joins together all the Basque centers in Argentina, has sent him a letter explaining what he got wrong.

 

La carta de la comunidad vasca en repudio de los dichos de Alberto Fernández.

“Our warmest regards:

Given the statements the President of the Argentine Republic made in today’s press conference about the Basque Country, the Federation of Basque-Argentine Bodies has been forced to make the following clarifications:

The Basque Country Health System did NOT collapse.
As shown by attached documents from the Basque Government, the situation in the Basque Country was not even close to that in other communities, whose health care systems did collapse.  However, resources were administered better and with less suffering than was exemplified in that speech.

That is why it is so hard for us to understand why this mention was made, as it is unfair, painful, and unfortunately harmful to our second homeland.

We are available for any greater clarifications you may feel are necessary, and in the meantime, we wanted to make sure the true situation and events that happened in the Basque Country were known.”

It wouldn’t be bad for the Government of Spain, involved by the Argentine Government’s claims in this unfortunate event, to explain what exactly was transmitted to the authorities in Argentina to come to conclusions so far removed from reality.  And given that the claims the President made to all of Argentina, and the world, are not true, it would also be nice for them to rectify that information in a statement.  We’re not holding our breath.

ATENCIÓN! ADI!A raíz de las declaraciones del Presidente Fernández en su comparecencia sobre la crisis del COVID-19,…

Publicada por Delegación de Euskadi en Argentina-Mercosur en Viernes, 17 de julio de 2020

El Cronista – 17/7/2020 – Argentina

Coronavirus en el País Vasco: ¿Fue real el colapso del sistema del que habló Alberto Fernández?

Si uno tiene algunas experiencias que se han dado en Europa, uno se da cuenta que cuando el sistema de salud se satura la mortalidad se duplica o triplica. Esto es lo que pasó por ejemplo en el País Vasco cuando se vio saturada la atención en los sanatorios y lamentablemente hubo que elegir quién se salvaba y quién se moría”, dijo en conferencia el presidente Alberto Fernández, para resaltar el “éxito” del Aislamiento Social Preventivo y Obligatorio (ASPO) en la Argentina, pero ¿fue realmente así?

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TN – 17/7/2020 -Argentina

Coronavirus en el País Vasco, el “mal ejemplo” que Alberto Fernández quiere evitar

“Todo el esfuerzo que hemos hecho, no ha sido inútil. Por mucho que nos duele la sensación de encierro y los problemas que genera, el aislamiento es lo que nos permite no caer en la crisis en la que cayó el País Vasco. No caer en el riesgo de elegir quién vive y quién muere”, declaró el presidente Alberto Fernández durante su anuncio sobre la cuarentena “oxigenada”.

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Google TranslateTodo Noticias does not allow Google to automatically translation.  You have to copy and paste the text yourself

Minuto Neuquen -17/7/2020 -Argentina

Qué quiso decir Alberto Fernández cuando habló de “no caer en la crisis del País Vasco”

Durante el anuncio del nuevo aislamiento, el presidente Alberto Fernández se refirió “a la crisis en la que cayó el País Vasco” por la pandemia de coronavirus y que “el asilamiento” es lo que nos permite no caer en ella.

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Cadena 105 – 17/7/2020 -Argentina

Cómo fue el colapso sanitario en el País Vasco que puso Alberto Fernández como ejemplo

El País Vasco se convirtió en una tendencia entre las conversaciones que se dieron en las redes sociales argentinas después de que Alberto Fernández mencionara su caso como el ejemplo de lo que sucede cuando colapsa un sistema sanitario en la atención a pacientes con COVID-19.

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InfoBAE – 17/7/2020 -Argentina

Cómo fue el colapso sanitario en el País Vasco que puso Alberto Fernández como ejemplo

El País Vasco se convirtió en una tendencia entre las conversaciones que se dieron en las redes sociales argentinas después de que Alberto Fernández mencionara su caso como el ejemplo de lo que sucede cuando colapsa un sistema sanitario en la atención a pacientes con COVID-19.

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Clarin – 17/7/2020 -Argentina

Por qué Alberto Fernández habló de no caer “en una crisis como cayó el País Vasco”

El presidente Alberto Fernández​ anunció este viernes el inicio de un proceso gradual para intentar “tratar de volver a la vida habitual, escalonadamente”, aunque asumió que será “un mundo diferente que exige más cuidados”, al anunciar la extensión del aislamiento social, preventivo y obligatorio (ASPO) en el marco de la pandemia de coronavirus.
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Clarín – 17/7/2020 -Argentina

La colectividad vasca rechazó los dichos de Alberto Fernández

Durante el anuncio de la nueva fase de cuarentena por el coronavirus en la Argentina, el presidente Alberto Fernández habló de no caer “en una crisis como cayó el País Vasco” por el colapso sanitario. Y se refirió a esa región de España donde, según señaló, “hubo que elegir quien vivía y quién muere”. Horas después, la comunicada vasca emitió un carta para el mandatario donde rechazó sus “desafortunados dichos”.