Argentina has now recorded more than half a million infections of Covid-19, officials confirmed on Tuesday.
In its daily evening update, the Health Ministry said that 12,027 new infections had been registered over the last 24 hours – only the second time the daily figure has exceeded 12,000 cases in a single day. The total now stands at 500,021.
In addition, 228 fatalities were recorded, pushing the death toll up to 10,405.
The figures arrive amid debate over the future of the coronavirus lockdown. Though restrictions have been relaxed in almost all regions, quarantine measures remain in place, with many activities still yet to receive authorisation to restart.
President Alberto Fernández's government ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 20 and mandatory social isolation rules remained for the first two months. Since then, some businesses have been allowed to re-open, though often with strict health and safety measures in place to ensure the spread of the virus is contained.
However, in recent days, there has been debate over restrictions in the nation's capital. In Buenos Aires City, bars and restaurants were allowed to re-open last week with customers seated at tables on streets, prompting crowded scenes at some establishments that did not or were unable to enforce restrictions.
Referencing the scenes only indirectly, President Fernández said Tuesday that it was "not the time" to see friends, offering an implicit criticism of the relaxation of restrictions for eating and drinking establishments in the City, which is controlled by the opposition.
Nevertheless, pressure to end the lockdown remains strong. In recent weeks, several anti-government – and anti-quarantine – protests have taken place in the capital and other cities across the country, while business owners have warned that thousands more companies could be lost if the lockdown continues in its current form.
Last week, healthcare professionals broke ground to plead with citizens to remain home and take responsibility for their actions, saying that hospitals and clinics are nearing capacity and that staff are overworked and exhausted after six months battling the pandemic.
In the first few weeks of the virus crisis, more than 95 percent of new cases were being recorded in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA), which encompasses Buenos Aires City and the 40 districts that surround it. Now, however, that number has dropped to around 63 percent, with new Covid-19 infections being recorded in 16 of Argentina's 23 provinces, with the strongest outbreaks since on Tuesday in Córdoba, Santa Fe, Jujuy and Mendoza.