Argentina registered a record 27,001 case of Covid-19 in 24 hours on Tuesday, as experts warned the health system is coming under increasing strain.
Despite President Alberto Fernández's move to tighten restrictions on circulation last week, the Health Ministry reported another daily record caseload, pushing the total number of infections since last March to 2,579,000. Tuesday's total was the fifth time in the last eight days that infections have surpassed 20,000.
Officials also confirmed 217 fatalities had been recorded, pushing the death toll to 58,174.
The new daily high was led by a surge in infections in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA), with Buenos Aires Province recording its single-day highest total of 14,004 confirmed cases. Buenos Aires City registered 2,934 new cases. The province of Córdoba reported 2,268 infections.
Underlining the growing strain on the health system, Health Ministry data showed 3,836 individuals remain in intensive care units (ICUs) across the nation, with bed occupancy in ICU wards reaching 62.4 percent nationwide and 70.8 percent in the AMBA region. More than 87,000 tests were carried out nationwide over the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry recommended earlier this week that institutions "reorganise scheduled surgeries that can be postponed and sustain outpatient care and prevention actions" in order to prioritise Covid-19 patients.
Argentina's vaccination programme is ongoing, with more than 7.085 million doses distributed to regional governments across the country. To date, some 5.571 million doses have been given, with 4.83 million having received the first shot and more than 735,000 having completed the process.
The worrying numbers come amid reports that some members of the government's coronavirus advisory commission have called for a full lockdown "for a short time, with a beginning and an end," in order to reduce the infection rate.
According to various local outlets, experts are concerned that the second wave of Covid-19 "is almost a new pandemic." Health experts are said to be particularly concerned about the spread of new Covid-19 variants, especially strains that originated in Manaus and the United Kingdom.
Mortality and infection rates in Argentina now stand at 128 and 5,559 per 100,000 inhabitants respectively, among the worst in the Americas, according to the AFP news agency.
The government has moved to tighten measures to try to stall the recent increase in cases witnessed in the past few weeks. As from last Friday for the next three weeks, non-essential circulation has been prohibited from midnight to 6am, and bars and restaurants must close at 11pm. Schools remain open.
In Buenos Aires Province, private medical firms and state officials released a statement on Tuesday calling for "more drastic measures" to be taken.
"We must avoid the collapse of the health system," they warned.
"With the current contagion curve, the private system will not last more than four or five days," said the president of the Argentine Health Union, Claudio Belocopitt.
The capital's public hospitals are close to the limit, according to medical sources and nursing entities.