Government officials called on Argentina’s citizens to take greater preventative measures against Covid-19 this week, as the nation’s death toll surpassed 45,000.
The grim landmark arrived in the same week as tallies recording fatalities across the globe said more than two million people had lost their lives after being infected with the novel coronavirus.
Health Minister Ginés González García has called on citizens to take greater care, warning that the battle against Covid-19 is far from over, despite Argentina’s mass vaccination programme now having reached more than 200,000 people.
The official this week asked citizens "to buy time for the vaccine to reach the most needy people," targeting his message squarely at young people.
The minister asked people to realise the “dimensions” of the virus crisis, saying that Argentina was facing a moment of “high risk.”
"Today in Argentina, 16 jurisdictions have at least one department with a high-risk epidemiological situation, with a growth of cases greater than 20 percent in the last 14 days and an incidence rate that exceeds 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants," the minister said in a post on Twitter on Wednesday.
González García warned that "the rate of growth of cases in CABA [Buenos Aires City] and the rest of the country in December is greater than that observed in June" of 2020.
On Friday, officials said that 12,332 cases had been registered over the preceding 24 hours, with 103 new fatalities. More than 1.78 million confirmed cases have now been recorded since the outbreak, with 45,227 fatalities.
More than 1.5 million have recovered, while occupancy of intensive care units nationwide stands at 53.7 percent and 58.9 percent in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA).
Rise in infections
Efforts to lower the infection rate are failing to make significant headway, with government officials appealing to citizens to take more care. Since the beginning of the summer vacation season, Argentina has seen a rise in infections, with the Health Ministry regularly reporting daily caseloads in five digits.
Many officials have pointed the finger at young adults, saying that social gatherings are responsible for the growth of confirmed cases.
González García remarked Wednesday that "in recent weeks, the age group ranging from 20 to 30 years old went from representing 20 percent of confirmed weekly cases to 27.2 percent" and warned that such growth was “not seen in any of the other [age] groups. "
"We are walking along a fine line where prevention, care and compliance with health regulations are essential to avoid further restrictions," the minister warned.
"Argentina is not alien to the international scene. Outbreaks have occurred in different parts of the world and in a much more abrupt way. We hear of and see new cases of stricter confinements daily to prevent the virus from circulating," González García added.
“There is no better policy than prevention and care," said the doctor, using words that were echoed by a number of fellow government officials at other events this week.
Last week, the national government announced a host of nighttime restrictions on traffic and nightspots and food and drink establishments, with regional governments allowed to decide at what hours the measures will apply. Most opted for a curfew of 1am to 6am.
The surge in infections arrives with Argentina only in the initial stages of its mass vaccination programme. The country began vaccinating against Covid-19 on December 29, with 300,000 initial doses of Russia’s Sputnik V shot. The country’s health authorities have also approved vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca.
On Friday, the government confirmed that more than 200,000 individuals had received their first dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, with 100,000 more jabs of the first batch still to be deployed.
"We have exceeded 200,000 doses applied: 200,759," announced Health Access Secretary Carla Vizzotti at a press conference.
She also confirmed that 300,000 more doses, the second of the two required jabs, were being picked up in Moscow by a plane provided by Aerolíneas Argentinas, which is due to arrive back in Buenos Aires later today.
"We are going to continue working so that our country continues to have doses and we continue to vaccinate those who are most at risk," said Vizzotti.
For now, vaccines have been given to frontline healthcare workers, including nurses and doctors, as well as at-risk groups. A further shipment from Russia is expected in February, which will allow the immunisation programme to reach greater numbers.