Argentina’s Covid-19 death toll surpassed 80,000 on Friday, following the confirmation of 539 new deaths over the preceding 24 hours.
The landmark arrived amid worrying reports from Corrientes Province that at least 15 patients had died at a hospital experiencing problems with oxygen supplies. The institution’s authorities denied that the two developments were related, stressing that it was down to the sheer “magnitude of infections and hospitalisations.”
Meanwhile, Córdoba Province Governor Juan Schiaretti announced new restrictions to tackle an uptick in cases, including the suspension of in-person classes at schools in the region.
With infection rates still stubbornly high and most of the country set for two days of strict lockdown this weekend, the Health Ministry confirmed 30,950 new infections on Friday.
Argentina now looks set to exceed four million confirmed cases next week.
As usual, Buenos Aires Province registered the highest number of new caseloads with 10,412, followed by the provinces of Córdoba with 5,357 cases and Santa Fe with 2,883. Two other districts also reported more than 1,000 new cases over the past 24 hours: Buenos Aires City with 1,951 and Entre Ríos Province with 1,038.
A total of 3,915,397 infections have now been recorded since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with 80,411 fatalities.
Numbers of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) continue to rise. As of Friday, 7,668 patients remained hospitalised for emergency treatment in such wards. The percentage of total bed occupancy in adult ICUs stands at 78.2 percent nationwide and 75.7 percent in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA).
Argentina entered a strict nine-day shutdown restricting population mobility at the end of May. But the measure managed to reduce the number of infections by only eight percent, according to Health Minister Carla Vizzoti.
While much of the attention has been on the capital and its heavily populated periphery, where nearly a third of the country lives, there were worrying signs from inland provinces on Friday.
Speaking at a press conference, Córdoba Province Schiaretti said he was ordering the immediate suspension of in-person classes and schools amid a surge in infections. He ordered a period of strict confinement until Friday, June 18, with all education moved online and all in-person activities banned. Shops will be able to remain open, but only to serve customers at the door. Circulation will be prohibited outside of the 8pm to 6am curfew, with only essential workers exempted.
"Today we are going through the peak of the second wave. The important thing is that we can continue vaccinating to defeat the virus. Today in Córdoba there are already 870,000 residents who have received the first dose,” he said.
“I want to ask the entire population to sign up, especially those over 18 years of age, because the coronavirus is attacking our youth, because they are the ones who circulate the most," said Schiaretti.
"Many vaccines are arriving in our country and Córdoba is also in negotiations to buy doses, so we have made the decision to expand vaccination throughout provincial territory,” he said.
"Córdoba never enters into controversy and never engages in politics during the pandemic, we do what our scientists and our sanitarians say at the time that they consider. For this reason, today we are taking these measures," he declared.
In Corrientes Province, Health Minister Ricardo Cardozo was forced to clarify reports that as many as 15 individuals had died at the Escuela Hogar field hospital after oxygen pipelines froze.
While confirming that the hospital had suffered problems with oxygen supplies, Cardozo denied that the deaths were a result of the issue. “Unfortunately it is the amount of death expected due to the magnitude of infections and hospitalisations that we are experiencing," he said.
"All the alarms of our respirators sounded and contingency plans were immediately put in place," Cardozo said, adding that "all the doctors were called in to assist” with oxygen supplies.
Argentina’s mass vaccination campaign continues to pick up pace, with more than 100,000 receiving shots on Thursday.
According to official government data, more than 17.49 million doses have been distributed throughout the country, with 13.61 million applied. Of those, 10,621,673 have received a first dose, while 2,988,358 have been given both.