Officials registered 614 new fatalities from Covid-19 on Wednesday, pushing the country past the grim landmark of 100,000 deaths.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Argentina, back in March 2020, more than 4.7 million people have now been infected with the virus. A total of 100,250 people have lost their lives, according to data from the Health Ministry.
The first to lose his life was a 64-year-old from Buenos Aires City, who had recently returned to Argentina from France. The man, who suffered from diabetes, hypertension, chronic bronchitis and kidney failure, died on March 7, 2020.
More than 19,000 new cases were recorded Wednesday and more than 5,000 people remain in intensive care with Covid-19 symptoms, meaning just over 62 percent of adult intensive care beds are occupied.
In recent weeks, Argentina’s infection rate has slowed, while its mass vaccination campaign has picked up speed. Yet worldwide, the country now ranks eighth for confirmed cases and 11th for fatalities. For both cases and deaths per million inhabitants, it ranks 13th. It is now the fifth country in Latin America to record 100,000 deaths.
"From the epidemiological point of view, I cannot find an explanation [for it]. We are a team of 60 researchers who work, manage and advise all the hospitals in the country except in Buenos Aires, but there is no explanation" for this death toll, infectologist and epidemiologist Hugo Pizzi told the AFP news agency.
"I am an academic totally removed from political issues and I cannot find an explanation for it. Perhaps making an inventory of all the stumbles and all the problems we had, in the future we can find out why," added Pizzi, who has a doctorate in public health and is a professor at the National University of Córdoba.
The pandemic generated fierce clashes between the Peronist government led by President Alberto Fernández and the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition over the past year and four months, especially over government-imposed health measures. The battles are taking place in an electoral year in which half of the lower house Chamber of Deputies and a third of Senate seats are to be renewed.
People in Argentina were locked up for a long quarantine period last year, as the government sought to improve public health hospitals and clinics ahead of a wave of infections. But the lengthy lockdown took a heavy toll on the economy, which contracted by 9.9 percent in 2020. Inflation, meanwhile, continues to run high, eroding purchasing power.
Pizzi maintains that if there had not been a severe lockdown, the pandemic “would have been a cataclysm."
"I have never been immersed in such a tragic situation, never, in my life as a doctor and as an educator of doctors I have never seen anything like it. It is an unknown, unpredictable virus with an unimaginable destructive capacity," he said.
According to government data published on Wednesday, 5,092 people remain hospitalised in intensive care units nationwide, with bed occupancy of adult beds at 62.2 percent throughout the country and 60.1 percent in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA), where a third of the population lives.
During the virus peak in April more than 80 percent of ICU beds were in use and Argentina was recording peaks of 40,000 cases a day, prompting President Alberto Fernández to order another nine-day lockdown.
"Today the only ones in intensive care units are young or pregnant, there are no more older adults. That means that the vaccinated group is not receiving care and that young people are the ones who are not taking care of themselves," said Pizzi.
Until a few months ago, vaccination was only recommended for pregnant women with risk conditions, but policy is now to encourage all those who are with child to get vaccinated.
In recent weeks, vaccination numbers have picked up, following the arrival of millions of doses of the Sputnik V, Sinopharm and Astrazeneca vaccines.
As of Wednesday, 20,605,189 people have received at least one vaccine dose, representing 60.85 percent of the population aged over 18 years of age and 45 percent of the total population. Of the vaccinated, 5,113,342 people are completely immunised, according to Argentina’s Public Vaccination Monitor webpage.