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ARGENTINA | 25-07-2020 08:35

Argentina breaks past 150,000 infections after worst week of pandemic to date

Officials on Friday confirmed 105 fatalities and 5,493 cases, closing off a week in which the country recorded an average of more than 5,000 new infections each day.

Another 105 fatalities and 5,493 new infections from Covid--19 were confirmed yesterday, as Argentina continued to experience its worst week of the coronavirus pandemic to date.

A total of 153,520 cases of the novel coronavirus have now been recorded in the country since the virus crisis began. The death toll currently stands at 2,807.

The figures round off a punishing five days. Argentina is now recording more than 5,000 cases daily and more than 100 deaths. Since last Friday, confirmed cases have risen by more than 33,000, with the death toll rising by more than 600. 

Confirming the long-held trend, around 90 percent (4,947) of the new cases confirmed yesterday are based in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA). As officials confirmed a surge of infections in Buenos Aires Province, Governor Axel Kicillof said that Argentina was now in "the worst of the pandemic." 

The region, Argentina’s most populated, is now confirming more than double the number of infections in Buenos Aires City each day – 3,790 on Friday, compared to 1,157 for the capital.

Despite fears about Argentina’s health system, officials say there is still capacity for those with severe symptoms from Covid-19. The Health Ministry said that a total of 955 people are currently hospitalised in intensive care units (ICUs), with bed occupancy standing at 55.5 percent nationwide and 64.3 percent in the AMBA region.

Outside of Greater Buenos Aires, the government is also casting worrying glances at Jujuy Province, which recorded 155 new cases on Friday. Provincial officials in the northern region said this week that they would tighten restrictions on movements in order to stem the spread of the virus.

The provinces of Chaco (63), Córdoba (56), Mendoza (56), Río Negro (40), Santa Cruz (38) and Tierra del Fuego (37) also recorded notable levels of infections.

The majority of fatalities continue to be congregated in the AMBA region.

Latin America as a whole has now recorded more than 176,000 deaths from Covid-19, with more than 4.1 million confirmed cases. 

Timid reopening

Despite a surge in cases in the AMBA region, especially in Buenos Aires Province, President Alberto Fernández announced last Friday that restrictions for those living in capital and its surroundings would be relaxed gradually over the coming weeks.

Officials, however, have warned that a strict quarantine may be reimpose if the number of cases and fatalities continues to accelerate.

Many of Argentina's other provinces have already relaxed their lockdown rules, with social distancing measures maintained. 

Buenos Aires began its own timid reopening of economic activity on Monday, as it relaxed coronavirus containment measures.

"We need to learn to live with the virus because if we don't, the economic damage will be worse than the damage done by the virus," said Daniel Bailo, a vendor at a hiking and fishing store that was reopening.

The reopening of the Greater Buenos Aires area, where 90 percent of Argentina's coronavirus cases have been concentrated, comes despite the country reporting more than record infection rates. This new phase will continue until August 2, with new permissions granted every few days.

"We hope people will be responsible," City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said on Monday.

He was one of the first people to head out for a morning run as a marked increase of people could be seen on the street.

The new measures allow citizens to exercise outside and to visit places of worship. Other activities to restart are non-essential businesses such as hairdressers; lawyers and psychologists; and industry including manufacturing and food processing.

The Juntos por el Cambio mayor advised caution and warned that "personal contact is by far the largest source of infection."

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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