Argentina recorded its worst pandemic data of the week on Friday, registering 601 deaths and 27,363 new cases of coronavirus contagion over the preceding 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.
Since the pandemic started 14 months ago, the accumulated total of cases now reaches 3,269,466 with 69,853 fatal victims.
The total number of patients in intensive care wards now reaches 5,457 while the percentage of bed occupancy in these units is 69.5 percent nationwide and 76.1 percent in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA, in its Spanish acronym).
But beyond AMBA, the second wave of Covid-19 is also hitting hard in provinces like Mendoza, San Luis and Catamarca, which in recent hours all ordered new restrictions to halt the circulation of the virus and the increased contagion.
Mendoza Province Governor Rodolfo Suárez ordered that people could only go to shops and restaurants in shifts according to the final number of their DNI identity documents (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 1-5 and the other days for the other numbers while splitting Sundays).
Social meetings are also banned in all public spaces with a virtual curfew between 11.30pm and 5.30am although bars and restaurants remain open.
Mendoza Government (Interior) Minister Víctor Ibáñez told the local press that the number of cases had reached a plateau at a high level but that the situation was "critical."
San Luis Governor Alberto Rodríguez Saá announced that since his province’s health system was "under strain," he would be suspending classroom education for the rest of the month as from next Monday.
Highlighting his "concern" over the second wave, Rodríguez Saá said: "Our testing is giving us 15 percent of positive cases as against a national average of 30 percent. Although that might seem low in comparison, it’s a lot."
Speaking to a local radio station, the governor also blamed people getting together and not taking care for the circulation of the virus.
Catamarca Province Governor Raúl Jalil, confirmed a "red alert" in his province with 95 percent of the available beds occupied by coronavirus patients needing oxygen.
Jalil explained that this "red alert" was based on epidemiological criteria crossing the statistics for the numbers of intensive care beds, the vaccinated and the infected.
"Between yesterday and the day before we had 600 new cases," the governor told Rock and Pop radio station while announcing that he would be adding 20 more hospital beds because all the 120 the province had until now are occupied.
Jalil attributed this situation to the high level of demand from people aged 40 or less, pointing out the younger patients spent more time in intensive care beds, which had almost no vaccinated patients according to the province’s statistical epidemiological study. Vaccinated patients could generally be attended at home, he said, adding that Catamarca had already vaccinated 100,000 people or around a quarter of its population.
The Catamarca governor also took advantage of this occasion to express his support for the pandemic superpowers bill sent by President Alberto Fernández to Congress.
On Monday, the Health Ministry warned that new Covid-19 variants from India and South Africa had been detected in national territory for the first time.
Three individuals who had recently returned to Argentina from overseas, on April 24, had been detected as infected with the strains and the trio were now in isolation in hotels in the capital, said officials.
"Since we started genomic sequencing surveillance in travellers, we have identified so-called priority variants in almost 50 percent of positive cases, but this is the first time we have found variants B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.1 (originally identified in India) and B.1.351 (originally identified in South Africa)," said Analía Rearte, National Director of Epidemiology and Strategic Information at the Health Ministry.
Rearte said that all those who arrived at Ezeiza international airport were being tested for Covid-19, with those who come back positive being transferred to a hotel in Buenos Aires City while their samples were sent to be sequenced by the state Anlis Malbrán laboratory.
Only Argentine citizens and resident foreigners are currently authorised to enter the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies the Indian variant as "worrying," because it is more contagious and because there are indications that it has a degree of resistance to vaccines.