Argentina registered 2,816 new cases from Covid-19 on Friday, lifting the total number of infections recorded since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to 5,221,809. Of those, more than five million have already recovered, with just over 43,000 waiting to be signed off by doctors.
The figures are in stark contrast to the peak numbers recorded back in April, when cases were regularly topping 35,000 a day. With a slowing rate of infection, the occupancy of beds in intensive care units has dropped to just under 42 percent.
Argentina has now recorded a sustained increase in Covid-19 cases for the past 15 weeks, according to official data.
The Health Ministry also confirmed 178 new fatalities yesterday, lifting the death toll to 113,282.
In what the Casa Rosada hopes is another good omen, the director of the Laboratorio de Virología del Hospital Nacional Posadas said Friday that the institution had not recorded a positive test result during the previous 24 hours, the first time the lab had done so since the start of the pandemic.
"Since we began to carry out diagnosis in our laboratory, yesterday, September 9, was the first day that we did not detect any case of Covid," Dr Graciela Cabral said in a video released by the hospital and government.
At the peak of the pandemic, the laboratory was processing more than 300 samples a day, with close to 80 percent coming back positive. In recent weeks, it has been testing 100, with only around 10 percent confirming infections.
Cabral said that there had been a sharp decrease in the occupation of intensive care units too and put the improvement down to the rise in vaccination among the population. The doctor warned citizens, however, to remain vigilant.
“We value the effects of vaccination but we must not lower our guard and we must continue to take care of ourselves and monitor ourselves,” said the doctor.
Argentina welcomed its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday evening, with 100,620 shots arriving at Ezeiza International Airport.
The delivery is the first batch of an estimated 20.5 million doses set to arrive before year’s end, said Health Minister Carla Vizzotti, who said some 580,000 doses would arrive this month, with the remainder due between October and December.
Vizzotti said the shots would “be used according to the national plan to initiate vaccination schedules for adolescents without risk factors universally, starting at 17 years of age," as well as to complete adult vaccination plans.
Argentina’s government and the US laboratory announced on July 27 that a deal had finally been agreed between the two parties for more than 20 million jabs. The accord was reached after months of negotiations and required a decree from President Alberto Fernández to unblock the process, despite Argentina having participated in Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine.
"The United States and Argentina are partners and we are going to continue working together to combat this pandemic," said MaryKay Carlson, charge d'affaires at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, who was on hand at Ezeiza to witness the delivery with Pfizer Argentina CEO Nicolás Vaquer.
Vizzotti also confirmed Wednesday that Argentina would receive a donation of just under 850,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the Spanish government. Last month, Madrid sent 400,000 of the shots to Buenos Aires.
According to government data as of Friday morning, a total of 28,632,492 people in Argentina (around 63 percent of the population) had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine with 17,769,790 having completed the full two-shot immunisation plan (38 percent).
So far, more than 51.97 million doses have been distributed across the country.