Guatemalan president and minister have coronavirus, cabinet to test

FILE PHOTO: Guatemala's President Alejandro Giammattei speaks during a session of the Senate of Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico, February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei revealed on Friday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, just as the Central American country was easing draconian travel restrictions imposed months ago to contain infections.

“The coronavirus test result was positive,” Giammattei told a local radio station. The government later confirmed the minister for culture had also tested positive.

Giamattei is the fourth Latin American leader to have a confirmed case of coronavirus. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and Bolivian interim president Jeanine Añez have all previously tested positive.

Latin America is currently the region hardest hit by the coronavirus, helping drive the global death toll toward one million.

Giammattei said he had experienced body aches and a dry cough and that he was on a nebulizer to avoid pulmonary complications. He also said he was taking dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that was shown to benefit critically ill COVID-19 patients in Britain, according to the World Health Organization.

He said he had asked the entire cabinet to take coronavirus tests and that he and all his ministers would work virtually for the moment.

Three days ago, the 64-year-old president delivered an Independence Day speech in Congress and was photographed mingling with lawmakers. He later took part in several public events with politicians.

Overall infections have been declining in the Central American country, which opened its international airport to commercial flights for the first time since mid-March on Friday along with land and maritime borders.

Guatemala has registered 84,344 coronavirus infections so far and 3,076 deaths.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Tom Brown, Kirsten Donovan and Aurora Ellis