Argentina on Thursday surpassed 100,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in a single day for the first time, breaking its record high since the start of the pandemic for the third day running.
The country, which since the end of 2021 has been facing a dizzying rise in coronavirus infections, is now one of the countries in Latin America where the disease is progressing most rapidly.
With testing centres overwhelmed by the spread of the Omicron variant, 109,608 new cases and 40 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to government data.
Health Minister Carla Vizzotti has urged people who are in close contact with a sick person but have no symptoms to isolate themselves and avoid going to testing centres, given the long lines seen outside testing sites across the country.
"I think some measures need to be taken. It seems to me that everything is too loose and people are not taking care of themselves. Now we are starting to see more facemasks, but a fortnight ago it was like there was no pandemic," Sol Castaño, a 21-year-old music student who was waiting in line to be tested after having fallen ill, told AFP.
Noting that more than 72 percent of the population has received a full schedule of two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, Vizzotti said that "a new variant emerged with a different situation, with an extraordinary transmissibility but with a much lower severity."
The omicron variant was first detected in Argentina on December 5. Despite the surge, hospitalisations and fatalities remain low. Bed occupancy in intensive care unit (ICUs) nationwide stands at 37.5 per cent.
Over the last week, new cases have increased 155 percent compared to the previous week, according to an AFP count based on official data.
"Omicron is bringing us many surprises. We don't know what the ceiling is going to be. There is no way to stop transmission," said Sonia Tarragona, Cabinet chief at the Health Ministry.
With a population of 45 million, Argentina has so far recorded more than six million infections and 117,386 deaths from Covid-19 since March 2020.