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ARGENTINA | 29-03-2020 21:56

Death toll rises to 20, as officials confirm 75 new Covid-19 cases

First cases confirmed in La Rioja and San Juan provinces, as total number of infected rises to 820. Latest fatality is 58-year-old male, no location given. President on verge of announcing extension to nationwide lockdown.

With President Alberto Fernández on the verge of announcing an extension to Argentina's nationwide lockdown, the Health Ministry confirmed that another 75 new infections of the novel Covid-19 coronavirus had been registered in the country on Sunday.

In total, 820 individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 in Argentina, though most experts say the true figure for the infected in likely higher.

Officials also confirmed one new fatality, a 58-year-old male, lifting the death toll to 20. The deceased had a history of lung problems, Health Ministry officials said. In a break from the norm, the late victim's location was not given. 

In another headline takeaway, the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 were registered in the provinces of San Juan and La Rioja.

Earlier on Sunday, San Juan Province Governor Sergio Uñac told reporters that the infected patient was a 29-year-old woman, who had arrived back in Argentina from Europe a few days earlier.

In its statement, the Health Ministry said 442 cases (54 percent) were imported, while 207 (25 percent) had been in close contact with other individuals who carried the virus. The remainder are under investigation, as experts probe how much transmission of the disease among the community is ongoing.

The news arrives with President Fernández on the verge of extending a nationwide lockdown. The Frente de Todos leader met with ministers and a group of medical and scientific advisers at the Olivos presidential residence today to discuss next steps and how effective the measures he initially imposed on March 16 have been. 

He is expected to address the nation at a press conference later Sunday night.

In a nod to how far the virus has travelled and how many it has infected, the government's daily update now includes the number of new and total cases in a province-by-province breakdown. Buenos Aires Province remains the highest with 217 confirmed cases (16 new confirmed on Sunday), followed by Buenos Aires City with 158 (13 new). The provinces of Chaco and Córdoba trail, with 90 (13 new) and 73 (18 new) respectively.

At a press conference this afternoon, Health Minister Ginés González García said that an expert advisory group had recommended to the president that mandatory quarantine be extended. Most reports say the decision has already been taken, a fact confirmed by sources consulted by the Times. However, the length of extension is still unknown.

"The specialists have unanimously opined that the quarantine must be extended," said González García at a press conference, surrounded by doctors and epidemiologists.

He said the group predicted a surge in contagion in the coming days.


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