Health Minister contradicts Saeima deputy diagnosed with Covid-19

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Appearing on the Rīta panorāma news show, Health Minister Ilze Viņķele contradicted MP Artuss Kaimiņš' claims that he hadn't gone abroad and hadn't contacted any infected people prior to being diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus.

Earlier, Kaimiņš told the public he was diagnosed with the novel virus, prompting all Saeima deputies and many government ministers to be tested for the infection and go into self-isolation. 

Specifically, Viņķele said March 23 that the country's Disease Prevention and Control Center had reported to her that a Saeima deputy, not named but understood to be Kaimiņš, had both visited a foreign country and contacted an infected person prior to being diagnosed with Covid-19.

"It is unacceptable to me that a high-ranking official, one of those to decide on prevention measures, is violating these measures himself. It both demoralizes people and makes them suppose that the Latvian authorities consider themselves an exception," said Viņķele.

She said that she trusts the epidemiologists' claims as opposed to those of Kaimiņš. 

Kaimiņš initially suggested that he had caught the virus infection locally. After Viņķele's announcement, he took to Twitter to express indignation over Viņķele's claims and to explain that the foreign country the disease center says he had visited was Lithuania, where he had gone on a trip March 1.

He admitted he was briefly hospitalized March 6 after the foreign trip but pointed out he wasn't tested for the virus during the initial hospitalization and that at that time Lithuania wasn't among the territories hit by the epidemic. 

Kaimiņš said that later it came to his knowledge that someone he had contacted has been tested positive for the virus and he immediately got tested and went public with the information after testing positive for the virus. 

A former actor and talk show host, Kaimiņš is a controversial figure in Latvian politics, known for his showmanship and bringing along a camera to the corridors of power.

Such was his popularity that he all but single-handedly brought the Latvian Association of Regions into the parliament in 2014, and later on repeated the trick after splitting away and establishing the KPV LV party, which won a whopping sixteen seats in the 100-seat Latvian chamber in the 2018 election.

Late last year he received serious burns in a fire at his home.

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