Argentina's government is likely to introduce tighter Covid-19 restrictions this Friday, after the Health Ministry posted alarming data on Wednesday.
For a second day running, officials confirmed a record number of infections in a single day, with 39,652 over the preceding 24 hours. Argentina has now registered 3,411,160 cases since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Health Ministry also confirmed 494 fatalities over the same period, lifting the death toll to 72,271.
Fears about the nation's health system are also rising, with 5,877 individuals with the virus currently in intensive care units nationwide. Occupancy of beds in ICUs has slowly crept up over the past three weeks, standing today at 72 percent nationwide and 76.4 percent in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA).
President Alberto Fernández is consulting with health experts, regional leaders, lawmakers and officials over the government's next step. He is expected to announce new restrictions on Friday, the day existing measures are due to expire.
According to reports in local outlets, health experts and virus specialists, – who held a videoconference meeting with the head of state, Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero and Health Minister Carla Vizzotti – are said to have warned Fernández on Wednesday that the health situation is "serious" and "going to get worse."
The Noticias Argentinas news agency, quoting high-level government sources, reported that epidemiologists recommended a full three-week closure of all non-essential shops, eating and drinking establishments and schools, saying the government "could no longer wait."
The experts are said to have expressed fears in particular over the dissemination of highly transmissible variants and the mortality rate.
Earlier on Wednesday, a number of local outlets said that the Buenos Aires City government – which successfully fought the Casa Rosada in the courts to keep schools open – is studying the possibility of enforcing a total lockdown during weekends, in order to stop the circulation of people and avoid social gatherings. Infections in the nation's capital have risen in recent days and though City Hall is reportedly keen to keep in-person classes going, it is open to stricter measures.
Fernández spoke with 12 provincial governors on Wednesday and will speak with the rest on Thursday at around noon. The president is then expected to record a message outlining his decision and new restrictions later in the day. It is not known if the speech will be broadcast later that evening or the following day.