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ARGENTINA | 14-07-2021 20:51

Argentina marks sombre milestone as Covid deaths surpass 100,000

Argentina reached a sombre milestone in its fight to control the pandemic as deaths caused by Covid-19 crossed 100,000 on Wednesday afternoon.

Argentina reached a sombre milestone in its fight to control the pandemic as deaths caused by Covid-19 crossed 100,000 on Wednesday afternoon.

Argentina added 19,697 new Covid-19 cases and 614 more deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 100,250, according to data published by the Health Ministry.

The death count puts the nation in the company of 10 other countries that have suffered losses of 100,000 or more, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Although Argentina’s cases receded from a peak in June, various lockdown restrictions have remained in place, including a rule last month that limits the number of travellers allowed to enter the country. The country implemented one of the world’s strictest lockdowns last year, leading the economy to suffer a record contraction of around 10 percent, but a slow start to contact-tracing allowed cases to continue swelling. In addition to the pandemic, the government is battling double-digit unemployment, rising poverty and inflation running at around 50 percent annually.

“The structural, economic and political challenges that have made Argentina one of the worst performing countries in the world in terms of managing the health and economic crisis triggered by Covid-19, will also make it one of the slowest to recover,” said Jimena Blanco, director of Latin America research at consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft.

Initially unable to broker agreements with US vaccine manufacturers, the government has relied on a mix of Russia’s Sputnik V jab, China’s Sinopharm shot and AstraZeneca Plc’s dose while supply delays have crimped its inoculation campaign. Around 45 percent of Argentines have received one jab, as the government favoured the strategy of inoculating as many people with their first dose as possible, while just 11 percent of the population has received both shots, according to data compiled by Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker.

The country’s vaccination effort, however, may be turning a corner. Argentina recently changed its local vaccine regulations to speed access to a wider range of vaccines including those made by US labs as the Joe Biden administration steps up global donations. The country also entered this week a supply agreement with Moderna Inc for 20 million doses of the company’s vaccine or a possible booster shot, with deliveries to begin in the first quarter of 2022.

Still, the economy’s feeble outlook will make a recovery difficult even if a vaccine rollout speeds up before the end of the year, Blanco said. The economy is expected to grow 6.3 percent this year.

“Businesses in the worst hit sectors will not have the flexibility to ramp up operations and re-hire workers,” Blanco said. “A lack of financing tools for business further constrain the ability to bounce back from any crisis, but especially one as profound and protracted as this one.”

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by Scott Squires, Bloomberg

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