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For Maradona, Argentina keep aside COVID-19 fears

Last updated on: November 27, 2020 00:58 IST
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People line up for the wake of soccer legend Diego Maradona at the presidential palace Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires on Thursday

IMAGE: People line up for the wake of soccer legend Diego Maradona at the presidential palace Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires on Thursday. Photograph: Matias Baglietto/Reuters

Argentines in their thousands, wearing soccer jerseys and face masks, packed into snaking queues on the streets of Buenos Aires on Thursday to pay their last respects to flawed soccer genius Diego Maradona - despite concerns around the spread of COVID-19.

 

The crowds, which some expect to reach a million people to see Maradona's casket after his death on Wednesday, reflect the soccer star's status in the South American country, where he has almost cult following and is fondly known as "God".

People offer masks as fans attend the funeral for Diego Maradaona at Casa Rosada

IMAGE: People offer masks as fans attend the funeral for Diego Maradaona at Casa Rosada.Photograph: Fotonoticias/Getty Images

"You have to be here. There was no way this wouldn't happen. Somehow this is Maradona too, breaking the rules," said Marcelo Gades, a 52-year-old employee, who was waiting to enter the wake with a rose in his hand.

"Argentina is Maradona, and Maradona is Argentina, with all the good and all the bad."

A street vendor offers sausage and meat during Diego Maradona's funeral in Buenos Aires on Thursday 

IMAGE: A street vendor offers sausage and meat during Diego Maradona's funeral in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Federico Peretti/Getty Images

Argentina has recorded almost 1.4 million cases and 37,714 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. The government imposed a strict lockdown in March and restrictions on schools and travel remain in place. New cases have been slowing in recent weeks.

Maradona's massive wake sparked some criticism on social media, especially as the government had limited the number of people who could attend wakes and funerals to contain the virus.

A man holds a scarf as people line up for the wake of soccer legend Diego Maradona  

IMAGE: A man holds a scarf as people line up for the wake of soccer legend Diego Maradona. Photograph: Matias Baglietto/Reuters

Rules had been eased in recent weeks to allow more access to cemeteries, though indoor gatherings in general remain tightly restricted.

While authorities had sanitizing equipment at the entrance of the palace, where people went through in procession to see the closed casket, many supporters crowded in front of the entrance and some were singing and drinking without face masks.

A fan waves a flag of Diego Maradona in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires

IMAGE: A fan waves a flag bearing Diego Maradona's name and jersey number in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images

"So many people together to say goodbye to Maradona is a source of direct contagion of COVID," 55-year-old Argentine doctor Alberto Ugalde told Reuters. "I see that on the street people are crowded and even some without face masks."

"I understand the pain, given what an idol he is for us, but the health risks are high."

Fans line-up as they attend the funeral for Diego Maradaona at Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires

IMAGE: Fans line-up as they attend the funeral for Diego Maradaona at Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Fotonoticias/Getty Images

A volunteer puts sanitizing gel on a fan as the former leaves Casa Rosada during Diego Maradona's funeral on Thursday

IMAGE: A volunteer puts sanitizing gel on a fan as the former leaves Casa Rosada during Diego Maradona's funeral on Thursday. Photograph: Federico Peretti/Getty Images

People line up for the wake of soccer legend Diego Maradona

IMAGE: People line up for the wake of soccer legend Diego Maradona. Photograph: Matias Baglietto
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