Argentina’s deadly Covid-19 second wave shows no sign of slowing, after another record-breaking week of infections and fatalities.
With the country coming towards the end of a strict nine-day period of confinement, the Health Ministry confirmed another 39,207 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, along with 560 deaths, close to the all-time high of 41,080, recorded just a day earlier.
The country has been hit by a wave of cases in recent weeks, with daily caseloads now regularly surpassing 30,000.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Argentina has now registered 3,702,422 confirmed cases of Covid-19. The death toll stands at 76,693 – more people than River Plate can fit inside their famed football stadium, the Monumental.
Argentina now ranks ninth in the world for total confirmed cases, having surpassed both Germany and Spain over the past week, according to the worldometers website and John Hopkins University.
The recent acceleration of cases and the high daily death tolls from Covid prompted President Alberto Fernández to last week order a strict nine-day period of confinement to protect the health system. That will expire as of midnight Sunday, when regions will return to their previous restrictions. The impact of shutdown is yet to be quantified.
"We will see the consequences of this week's confinement next week – surely the rates we see this week will continue," warned Mario Lugones, the head of the Fundación Sanatorio Güemes in Buenos Aires on Thursday.
Over the past week, the number of patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) has risen dramatically. As of Friday, 6,872 individuals were receiving treatment in these wards.
According to official data, occupation of intensive care units (ICUs) nationwide stands at 77.1 percent, taking into account both the public and private sectors. The figure stands at 76.6 percent in the heavily populated Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA), where roughly a third of the country resides.
For most of the pandemic, infections have been concentrated in the AMBA region, with Buenos Aires Province taking the brunt. A total of 15,035 new cases were recorded there on Friday, with 3,026 registered in Buenos Aires City.
High infection incidences were also seen in Córdoba (4,654 new cases) and Santa Fe provinces (3,653). Four additional regions – Entre Ríos (1,476); Formosa (1,203); Mendoza (1,127); and Tucumán (1,062) – surpassed more than 1,000 infections over the past 24 hours.
“These are difficult moments,” admitted City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta at a press conference on Friday, as he unveiled his plans for the nation’s capital and the weeks ahead.
Among the headline takeaways, the opposition leader announced that students would return to schools in the capital, starting Monday.
The national government hopes that soon-to-expire tightened restrictions on circulation has bought the health system time while its mass vaccination programme advances.
Officials took delivery of more than 2.8 million vaccine doses this week, including a shipment of 843,000 from the United States that constituted the first batch of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines made with the active ingredient produced in Argentina. This was the first shipment of a total of 22.4 million doses purchased by Argentina within the framework of an agreement with Mexico for the joint production of some 150 million vaccines.
Argentina began its vaccination campaign on December 29. Since that day, more than 11.8 million people – roughly 26 percent of the population – have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose to date. Of those, 2.67 million have received two doses or completed the vaccination process, according to official data.
A total of 14.5 million doses have now been distributed throughout the country, the government said in a statement on Thursday.
Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero said Wednesday that the government is continuing to work to acquire as many vaccines as possible.
Health Ministry officials travelled to Havana this week to learn more about the development of two of the four shots being produced by Cuba.
Cafiero revealed that Argentina had reached an agreement with the Chinese laboratory Cansino Bio regarding its one-dose jab, though details were thin on the ground.
Poliarquía poll: More than half of Argentines disapprove of Covid Response
A new survey by the Buenos Aires-based consultancy firm Poliarquía shows that 59 percent of Argentines disapprove of President Alberto Fernández's management of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Disapproval increased by 11 percentage points from the first to the fourth week of May and reached its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020. Meanwhile, 32 percent approve of the president’s handling of the crisis, according to the survey.
Answering another question in the survey, 59 percent of respondents said that they feel that the government should not extend the current confinement measures beyond May 30. Fernández imposed a strict nine-day lockdown on May 21, given an increase in the number of cases and deaths .
A large majority of people also said they are opposed to the hosting the Copa América football tournament on Argentine soil in two weeks’ time.
The South American championship, already postponed from last year due to the outbreak, last week lost a co-host in Colombia which had its games stripped by the CONMEBOL federation amid social unrest that has claimed dozens of lives.
It left Argentina as the sole host, but Poliarquía found that 70 percent believe the country should withdraw as hosts. Only 20 percent believed the championship should continue on Argentine soil, and 10 percent were undecided.
The survey was conducted May 27-28 with 1,274 participants via automated ‘IVR’ (interactive voice response) phone calls, said Poliarquía. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8 percent.