By Augusto Morel
Buenos Aires, Jul 15 (EFE).- Argentina’s government has launched an initiative that allows people to receive a nurturing dose of music and culture while they are shielded from the potentially deadly coronavirus.
With a view to ensuring greater access to Covid-19 vaccines, an agreement between the nation’s Health and Culture Ministries has transformed the iconic Kirchner Cultural Center (CCK) in Buenos Aires into a place where 300 doses are administered daily, officials say.
Through that program, more than 13,000 people have received protection against the coronavirus while being entertained at the cultural facility by a group of tango musicians.
Access to the building is governed by strict health protocols. After people pass by a statue of late former President Nestor Kirchner, who governed from 2003 to 2007 and died in 2010, they have their temperature taken and then sit down on socially distanced chairs.
While waiting their turn, a cellist plays the emblematic “Balada para un loco,” a tango song with music composed by Astor Piazzolla and lyrics by Uruguayan-born Argentine poet Horacio Ferrer that serves to whet the listener’s appetite.
“It’s important to immunize the society since we know that vaccines save lives,” Tomas Acosta, a 33-year-old Scouts America volunteer who is among a group of “strategic personnel” for vaccination purposes, told Efe at the CCK.
The vaccination drive is a particularly pressing priority in a country where 100,000 deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic.
The music, however, serves to alleviate the stress associated with the health emergency. Acosta said the melody of the song “helps him relax” and is even more soothing in a place like the Cultural Center.
“It’s wonderful to feel like you’re at home. I’m very grateful for that,” he said.
A rendition of Piazzolla’s “Libertango” is later audible in the distance as health personnel accompany the Scouts volunteer to the cabins where the vaccines are administered.
“They take out the dose in front of you. They show you what they’re vaccinating you with. Everything was very neat and tidy. That’s makes you feel at ease,” Acosta said.
Newly vaccinated people are led to the Great Concert Hall at the center of the building, a symphonic space with a curved, oval design in the shape of a blue whale.
The hall has a 1,950-person seating capacity. Although far fewer people have been able to attend during the pandemic due to social distancing requirements, a large crowd of spectators fill the room while health personnel monitor them for any potential side effects.
As they wait, Walter Castro, a bandoneon player; pianist Julian Caeiro; and double bassist Emilio Longo entertain the audience with the performance of some well-known ballads.
“They give us their applause. I think it’s a moment of relaxation after they’ve been vaccinated, and what better way than hearing music? I think it’s the perfect combination,” Castro told Efe.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have live music in all vaccine centers to kill two birds with one stone: people get vaccinated, the virus goes away” and the music of Buenos Aires returns, he added.
More than 50 percent of Argentines over the age of 20 and 90 percent of people older than 60 have received an initial dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Sandra Tirado, the Health Ministry’s health access secretary.
Argentina is home to 45 million people and has received more than 30 million vaccine doses to date.
Due that shortfall, Tirado said the country has made it a priority to ensure that as many people as possible receive the first dose in the series.