Health Minister Carla Vizzotti warned Wednesday that Argentina is in "the worst moment" of the coronavirus pandemic to date and asked citizens to take extra care.
"Argentina is experiencing the worst moment of the pandemic since March 3 of last year. It is the moment of greatest risk [of infection]," declared the minister at a press conference in Buenos Aires.
Vizzotti said the heath system is in "tension" across the country, especially in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) where infections are surging as a second wave of coronavirus hits the country.
Later that evening, the government confirmed that the country had surpassed 60,000 deaths after 291 fatalities in the previous 24 hours. Almost 26,000 new infections were also registered, lifting the cumulative toll to more than 2.76 million confirmed cases.
The health minister did, however, offer a moment of optimism, hailing the news that a local laboratory had manufactured a batch of 21,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, produced by the Gamaleya Research Institute.
"This situation is great news, [but] we have to be prudent. We have to wait for quality control results, and based on that, see the timescale. We are well aware of the complexity of the production process," she said regarding the announcement of Sputnik VIDA.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Laboratorios Richmond had completed its first batch of the Covid-19 vaccine, following an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) made in February. The doses have been sent to the Gamaleya Institute for quality-control tests and to gain approval for manufacturing on a large scale, which could begin in June.
The minister also discussed the political and legal battle that has surfaced between Casa Rosada and the Buenos Aires City government over the former's order to suspend in-person classes at schools in the AMBA region. Opposition leader Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who serves as City mayor, has told schools to remain open and launched an appeal which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear.
Vizzotti defended the decision of the national government, saying the objective of the measure was “to reduce circulation.” She explained that "it is not about the individual risk of attending schools," but more the circulation of people that happens when kids are taken to and from schools.
"It is not about the individual risk of attending a school where protocols are complied with, but rather it is a collective risk in an urban setting with intense community mixing and an accelerated rate of contagion, where the mobilisation of people implies a risk," said the minister.