Miami is presented as a business and vacation destination for Paraguayans, but also as an exclusive alternative to get a vaccine against the coronavirus that they do not know how long it will take to obtain in their country.
The vaccination rate in Paraguay advances slowly, with only 77,752 people immunized since February 22, according to the Ministry of Health, just 1.65% of the 4.7 million people targeted for vaccination in a country of about 7 million population.
Less than eight hours of direct flight between Asunción and Miami, South Florida stands out as a place where the age limits for vaccination have already been withdrawn, although its immunization plan is planned only for citizens and legal residents of the state. .
During March, the General Directorate of Migration of Paraguay registered an exit of 1,577 Paraguayans bound for the United States and 937 more between April 1 and 11.
The authorities acknowledge that there is an increase in the figures, but they are cautious when it comes to relating these numbers to a possible health tourism in Miami and remember that many go for business, vacations, visit relatives or even have a residence in Florida.
PARAGUAYANS IN SEARCH OF THE VACCINE
On Saturday night, the only flight leaving the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport, outside Asunción, was destined for Miami. With the terminal empty, the five Eastern Airlines counters that were operating did not stop checking suitcases, while whole families, young people with expensive bags and elderly people waited in the queue.
Most preferred to avoid the press after local media began talking about vaccination tourism among the country’s wealthy class in recent days. However, no one denied that vaccination could be a possible travel option for any of the passengers.
Mauro Arriola, one of the young people present at the airport, commented that he was going to spend a week on vacation in Florida and welcomed vaccination in the United States. “I think it’s okay, because here vaccines are in short supply and if you have the opportunity to go to get vaccinated, I don’t see any problem,” he said.
Other passengers left the option of getting vaccinated in Miami to the personal decision of each one, such as Angela Rojas, who was traveling on a family visit to celebrate her granddaughter’s birthday. “It is a matter of each one, personally,” he said without seeing any inconvenience in getting vaccinated if he had the possibility.
Among the passengers on this flight to Miami, there were also residents of Florida, such as Rodrigo Buitrago, a Colombian-American, who, together with his wife, a Paraguayan national, was returning home.
Buitrago was not surprised that, given the difficulties in getting vaccinated in Paraguay, some are looking for other options outside the country. “Each one does what is convenient for him and if he has the means, let him do it, right?”
The only one who openly recognized the reason for his trip was Cristian Storm, a 47-year-old man who traveled to Miami with “the expectation” of getting vaccinated, given the prospect of an undated wait for the turn of people his age Paraguay.
When some of the residents in the Cuban capital have begun to be vaccinated even though the third stage of testing of the Sovereign 2 vaccine has not been completed, the island promotes health tourism by publicizing a beach paradise that will soon be it will have its entire population vaccinated.
“It requires a rental contract, a property there and I think a bank account. It is trying your luck, I understand that there is some flexibility to apply the vaccine,” he explained in relation to the requirements to be immunized in Miami.
Without the guaranteed vaccine, his entire trip was “in we shall see”, but he did not mind “making an effort of three weeks” to wait for the second dose if he managed to access the first.
THREE WEEKLY FREQUENCIES
For Eastern Airlines, the company that operates the direct flight between Asunción and Miami, “it is no surprise” this flow of passengers, clarified its airport manager, Jorge Fragnaud.
The airline this year recovered the route suspended in 2015 by American Airlines, and it opened with two weekly frequencies, Tuesdays and Saturdays, to which a third will be added on Thursdays as of April 29.
Fragnaud stressed that this third frequency was in the initial plans of the company since it requested permission to operate in Paraguay and does not respond to an increase in passengers in recent weeks.
“This was always a very profitable route (…). Here there are many passengers who have their businesses in the US or have relatives, many are Paraguayans who travel back to their homes in the US Miami is the door of the Americas, “he said.
In addition to these reasons, whether some travel to get vaccinated or not is something that does not rule out either. “I do not question the passengers why they are going. Surely there will be some who go for that, but I have no idea. Obviously, some are going, they will take advantage, but it is not something that I can say if they are going for that.”