The Health Ministry recorded more than 35,000 new Covid-19 infections on Friday, rounding off Argentina’s worst week of the coronavirus pandemic to date.
Last week the increase in cases was alarming in almost every province, with daily average infections up 40 percent, a 15 percent rise in deaths and 531 more patients in intensive care wards – the highest occupancy rate yet since the pandemic started. This is the key data that lead the government to impose a new period of strict confinement for nine days, running from today until May 30.
The 40 percent increase was quantified as 29,277 cases last Thursday as against 20,932 the previous Thursday (May 13), teacher and researcher Soledad Retamar told the Télam state news agency in an interview.
Retamar, who researches data bases for the Facultad Regional Concepción del Uruguay, which depends on the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional, (UTN), pointed out: "This figure kept growing, it started the week with a rise of 26 percent as compared to the previous Monday but every day that percentage got bigger."
The specialist warned: "This increase comes from an extremely high base," also recalling that "since March 8 there have only been 13 days [from April 27 to May 9] with a downward trend compared to the previous week."
The almost nationwide increase in cases also included the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA in its Spanish acronym, combining the Federal Capital and Greater Buenos Aires), where the cases had been falling week by week until last week.
"On May 13 the cases of Buenos Aires Province (PBA) averaged 8,703 and 2,146 in the City whereas the following Thursday these figures passed to 11,062 y 2,705 respectively for a weekly increase of 27 percent for the province and 26 percent for the City," pointed out Retamar.
In her analysis of the indicators proposed by the Health Ministry, namely incidence (the number of accumulated cases in the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants) and growth (number of cases in the last fortnight compared to the previous fortnight), the specialist described at least one of those indicators being red alert in every province and both showing high risk in 15 provinces.
The expansion of the current wave of coronavirus throughout the country can also be analysed by evaluating the composition of the latest daily notifications – if, for example, you take the report of May 20, while Buenos Aires Province remains in first place with 41 percent of the cases, Córdoba is in second place with 10 percent while Santa Fe and this City share third place with eight percent of the notified contagion each.
All other provinces range between one and three percent of cases, except Jujuy, Tierra del Fuego, Misiones and La Rioja, all with less than one percent each.
Occupancy of intensive care beds
Another variable soaring last week was the number of Covid-19 patients hospitalised in intensive care wards.
"Only in this last week 531 patients have been admitted to intensive care wards," indicated Retamar, "the highest occupancy rate since the start of the pandemic."
Despite far more beds in many provinces, "the percentage of occupancy is 72.6 percent at national level and 76.4 percent in AMBA," she pointed out.
In various provinces the percentage is superior to the national average – for example, Buenos Aires City notified yesterday an occupancy of 83.8 percent while Neuquén Province not only reported 100 percent occupancy but warned that 26 people had to be hospitalised in emergency wards, some with respirators.
At the start of the week the Sociedad Argentina de Terapia Intensiva (SATI) listed the health centres in nine districts (Buenos Aires City, Catamarca, Mendoza, Neuquén, San Juan, Buenos Aires Province, Córdoba, Corrientes and Misiones) as topping 90 percent although this survey did not take in all the hospitals in these jurisdictions so that their conclusions cannot be considered official information.
Deaths from coronavirus
In reference to the people dying from coronavirus, the daily average of fatalities has registering a sustained increase since cases started rising in April, with some minor ups and downs, some of which can be linked to delayed reporting.
"This last week the increase was 15 percent if we compare the average of the last seven days up to May 20 (when 493 died), compared to last Thursday (428)," explained Retamar.
On the basis of these data, President Alberto Fernández announced a new lockdown Thursday until May 30 in the zones of the greatest epidemiological risk like AMBA, in the framework of what he called "the worst moment since the coronavirus pandemic started."