Third Covid infection for Bolivian VP who touts traditional medicine

·2-min read
An Aymara woman hold medicinal plants as she takes part in a march against decrees that make the Covid-19 vaccination pass compulsory at public places, in La Paz, on January 10, 2022 (AFP/Jorge BERNAL)

Bolivia's vice president David Choquehuanca, who touts indigenous treatments for Covid-19, has contracted the virus for a third time, the government said Tuesday, with six government ministers also testing positive.

All are self-isolating and working from home, with no major symptoms, the president's office said in a statement. All had been vaccinated against the coronavirus, although Choquehuanca -- a member of the Aymara indigenous group -- has had only one jab.

Last month, he revealed he had contracted Covid-19 twice, and recovered after taking what he called traditional medicine.

Choquehuanca said he had consumed a mixture of turmeric, ginger, onion, garlic, and honey in the mornings, as well as honey with lemon.

He said he chewed coca leaves mixed with bicarbonate, an ancient practice among Bolivia's Aymara and Quechua indigenous groups who have largely resisted coronavirus vaccines.

"Coca with 'bico' (bicarbonate), that’s very good," he told a local radio channel, adding "I’ve even eaten grass."

The politician claimed at the time to have acquired immunity through infection, the "natural" way.

But he said he would get a vaccine to put an end to the controversy about his unjabbed status, as Bolivia's opposition urged him to set an example amid a fourth infection wave sweeping the country.

Choquehuanca got his first jab, with China's Sinopharm vaccine, on January 3, just days after his radio interview.

The others infected included Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta, who tested positive in Argentina after taking part in a meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the government said.

His peers in the portfolios of defense, development planning, justice, education and the ministry of government, have also tested positive.

Bolivia has registered some 686,000 coronavirus infections and almost 20,000 deaths among its nearly 12 million inhabitants.

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