Argentina’s government announced Wednesday that it has decided to reduce from ten to seven days the period of compulsory isolation for people infected with Covid-19 who have been fully vaccinated.
The measure, announced by Health Minister Carla Vizzotti at a press conference, comes amid a sharp rise in confirmed cases in the country since the beginning of December. Yet despite the Delta variant already being in circulation, and the entry of the more contagious Omicron variant earlier this month, the government has so far ruled out the reimposition of more restrictive health measures.
"Argentina is now entering the third wave [of Covid-19]. Cases are increasing, although this is not translating into more hospitalisations and deaths," Vizzotti said.
"The transmission dynamics have changed with the Omicron variant. There is an exponential increase in cases, but that does not translate into an increase in hospitalisations or mortality," she confirmed.
Argentina confirmed 33,902 new infections of Covid-19 on Tuesday, up from just over 5,000 at the end of November.
According to the new rules, people who test positive for Covid and who are fully vaccinated will have to remain isolated for seven days, while for those who are vaccinated and are in close contact with an infected person but do not have symptoms, the period will be five days.
Vizzotti explained that in the current context "the concern is not so much for the health system, as it was before, but that there will be an economic impact due to isolation."
The mandatory quarantine period will remain at ten days for infected individuals and close contacts who have not received two vaccine shots. These people will also have to undergo a PCR test at the end of their isolation period.
"The vaccines are saving lives, they are showing the role they have, regardless of whether we have a significant number of cases," said Vizzotti, who urged Argentines to finish their vaccination schedules.
Argentina began its Covid-19 vaccination campaign exactly one year ago. According to the latest data, 73 percent of its 44 million inhabitants have completed vaccination. Of these, 10 percent have received a third ‘booster’ dose.
Earlier on Wednesday, health officials confirmed that the Norwegian-flagged Viking Jupiter cruise ship had been allowed to dock in the port of Ushuaia in Argentina’s south. According to reports, several passengers onboard have been infected with Covid, though authorities did not provide an exact number. The ship, with around 1,000 onboard, arrived from Chile and passengers did disembark, though those who tested positive for the virus remained onboard.
At the beginning of December, another cruise ship, Bahamas-flagged MS Hamburg, was temporarily isolated on the high seas because of fears related to the spread of the Omicron variant among passengers.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, some 5.5 million people in Argentina have been infected and more than 117,000 have died.