President Alberto Fernández on Friday extended his emergency decree detailing existing Covid-19 restrictions until June 25, despite infections and fatalities remaining at high levels.
"We will continue to extend the decision we have already made, while waiting for a law to be dealt with [in Congress] and we will make an agreement on how we have to act in the face of risks before us," the Peronist leader confirmed, speaking at a public event at a health centre.
The government has sent a so-called ‘superpowers’ bill to Congress, which would allow the president to set restrictions for all regions.
“The DNU [emergency decree] will be renewed in similar terms according to the parameters of the epidemiological levels until June 25," confirmed Health Minister Carla Vizzotti, who spoke prior to the president.
The existing decree allows provincial governors and the Buenos Aires City government to determine the extent of local lockdowns within certain parameters. The country is divided into zones of low risk, medium risk, high risk and epidemiological and health alarm.
Current restrictions in place include social distancing measures, a prohibition on the circulation of people at night, public transport being reserved solely for the use of essential workers and the use of remote learning for schools.
Close to a quarter of the population have now been vaccinated, mostly with a single dose, according to data from the Health Ministry. Argentina's infection and fatality rates remain among the highest in the Americas.
“We continue working to vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate, and we need to strengthen precautions to lower cases, hospitalisations and deaths,” said Vizzotti.
"The pandemic is not over, and although it is true that we are vaccinating at a faster pace, the virus still exists and is mutating," Fernández warned.
The Health Ministry also announced Friday that it had signed contracts with Chinese vaccine producers Sinopharm and CanSino for millions of doses from each one, though it warned that delivery would depend “on their availability.”
The portfolio also announced that it had approved the emergency use of the latter single-use shot.
Argentina’s mass vaccination campaign, which has accelerated over the past few weeks, has so far used the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, a shot from Chinese laboratory Sinopharm and another developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
So far, around 12.6 million have received one dose, with 3.2 million having received both shots.
Infections and death toll
To date, Argentina has recorded more than four million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and almost 84,000 fatalities related to the virus. It recently surpassed the United States in deaths per million people since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
On Friday, the Health Ministry said that 27,628 infections and 699 deaths had been recorded over the past 24 hours. That was the third-highest number of new cases in a day worldwide, behind India and Brazil, Reuters reported.
As usual, Buenos Aires Province recorded the highest number of daily infections, wth 9,556 new cases, followed by the provinces of Córdoba with 4,360 cases and Santa Fe with 2,416. Buenos Aires City, the nation’s capital, registered 1,994 infections.
Almost 80 percent of the beds in Argentine intensive care units nationwide are occupied, data showed, with occupancy at 76.2 percent in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA).
Earlier in the week, officials reported the first case of the so-called ‘Delta’ strain, which originated in India. The variant was registered during tests on arrivals at Ezeiza international airport in April, according to reports.