Argentina’s coronavirus numbers soared this week as restrictions on citizens were loosened.
The number of confirmed infections and fatalities accelerated compared to the previous week, rising to 28,764 and 785 respectively as of Friday evening. One week earlier, the tallies stood at 21,037 cases and 632 deaths.
Health Ministry officials said at press time that 1,391 new infections had been registered on Friday, with 20 new fatalities.
Once again, the overwhelming majority of new cases were recorded in Buenos Aires Province (744) and Buenos Aires City (565). The new highest tally was Chubut Province, which confirmed just 39 cases.
In a worrying sign for government officials, Formosa Province – which up until this week had registered no cases at all of Covid-19 – ended the week with 25 cases in total.
Of the 20 fatalities recorded Friday, six were men (five from Buenos Aires Province, one from the capital) and seven were women (three in Buenos Aires Province, two from the city, one in Chaco Province, one in Córdoba Province).
The rise in cases and deaths comes as Argentina begins to tentatively emerge from the mandatory nationwide lockdown put in place on March 20 by President Alberto Fernández.
Restrictions remain tight in the capital and the Greater Buenos Aires area, though City officials have loosened some rules, including regarding exercise.
The president warned in an interview on Friday that the pandemic was not yet “overcome” and floated the idea of a return to tighter restrictions.
"The peak was delayed: everyone calculated it for May, we are in mid-June and the peak may be happening – the problem is not over," Fernández told Radio 10.
"We should return to absolute quarantine," he declared.
Officials have warned that numbers will rise in the coming weeks.
Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof is known to be concerned by the spread of the virus in the region, while City Health Minister Fernán Quirós, speaking Friday, said that the worst "is yet to come."
Concerns at the top of the government also increased with the news that a prominent official had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Up to yesterday the Greater Buenos Aires south side district of Lomas de Zamora had 550 cases of coronavirus but now it has a 551st – its mayor Martín Insaurralde, who tweeted yesterday afternoon that he had tested positive for Covid-19, urging everybody to stay home as much as possible. Three other Greater Buenos Aires mayors had also tested for the disease until now, as well as Governor Kicillof but all were negative.
The news prompted President Fernández to cancel a visit to Catamarca, Argentina’s only province without a single case of coronavirus, since he has recently been in contact with the mayor.
Unconfirmed reports circulated at press time suggesting that some top-tier officials – including Social Development Minister Daniel Arroyo and the president – had been tested and were waiting to find out if they will have to go into isolation.
Brazil’s unwanted honour
Brazil on Friday claimed the unenviable position of having the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world behind the United States.
Argentina’s giant neighbour has now recorded 41,828 fatalities, surpassing Britain, according to Health Ministry data.
The country recorded 909 deaths in the past 24 hours. There are 828,810 confirmed infections among a population of 212 million, the ministry said.
Experts say the true number of cases could be 10 or 15 times higher in Brazil, the largest country in Latin America.
On Thursday, a tally by the AFP news agency revealed that the number of Latin American cases of the virus had broken through the 1.5 million barrier. The region has also reported more than 73,600 deaths from Covid-19 to date.