Argentina, Covid infections exploding, vaccine campaign going slowly
Buenos Aires, May 18 (EFE).- The high daily Covid infection and death figures in Argentina, which on Tuesday set records with 35,543 newly confirmed cases and 745 deaths, are raising concerns about the development of the pandemic and the slow arrival of vaccines.
So far, more than 10 million vaccine doses have been administered, but just a little over two million have been second doses, meaning that the recipients have been “fully” immunized.
On Friday, the latest round of restrictions announced by the Alberto Fernandez government to halt the spread of the virus will expire, with infections occurring mainly in Buenos Aires but with other areas such as Cordoba now beginning to see a strong surge in infections.
“It’s hurts us each time we see the number of 500 deaths in a day, and it’s got to make you think,” said Fernandez in a radio interview on Tuesday.
Although he ruled out issuing a new tough confinement order, the president asked the authorities in each district to do a better job of enforcing the existing restrictions.
To date, Argentina – with its 45.8 million people – has received more than 12.6 million doses of vaccine, of which through Tuesday 11,763,270 doses had been distributed to vaccination sites.
According to the Public Vaccination Monitor, 10,193,368 doses have already been administered, of which 8,141,608 were first doses – 17.7 percent of the population – and 2,051,760 were second doses (4.47 percent of the public), the majority of the latter having been given to people age 60 and over and to health care personnel.
The vaccination campaign has been progressing so far mainly with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, but also with China’s Sinopharm, India’s Covishield (which uses the same technology as the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine), the doses of the latter drug having arrived via the World Health Organization’s Covax platform.
All these vaccines, along with the 4 million doses of AstraZeneca that are forecast to arrive this month, are two-dose drugs, although Sputnik V has two different components and 5.97 million doses of the first round have arrived but only 1.06 million doses of the second round.
Thus, it is crucial for Argentina to receive the second component of the two-dose Russian series so that the maximum recommended 3-month interval between the two shots will not be exceeded.
The prevailing restrictions are more or less strict depending on the epidemiological status of different districts around the country. The main focus of infections has been in the Buenos Aires metro area – which includes the capital and the towns and cities around it and where the intensive care units are 76.2 percent filled.
In that zone, the public is prohibited from circulating at night and in-person school classes have been cancelled, although the latter move has not been followed in the capital because of the refusal of opposition Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larretta to adhere to it, a stance allowed by the Supreme Court.
“We’re still processing a (Covid) wave on the threshold of winter. The situation is extremely delicate and we all have to make an enormous effort,” Buenos Aires provincial Health Minister Fernan Quiros said Tuesday, warning that after several days of falling numbers of Covid cases, in the past three or four days the figures have begun rising again.
He also defended the fact that in-person school classes are under way in the capital, saying that “the (health) protocols are being followed very strictly,” and – although he acknowledged that the local government still has not settled on its stance regarding the measures that will be in place starting on Friday, he rejected the imposition of a strict quarantine like the one ordered in 2020.
So far during the Covid pandemic, Argentina – where several variants of the original virus strain that have developed in other countries are circulating – has registered 3.37 million confirmed cases, with the record daily figures being seen during the current second wave.
In all, 71,771 people have died and on Tuesday the daily death toll hit a record high of 745.
“What I’m asking for is for people to understand what’s happening and that they take care of themselves. This greater number of cases that are occurring is the result of saying that life goes on as if nothing is happening,” Fernandez emphasized on Tuesday, clearly alluding to the main opposition party, which has been pushing for greater freedom of movement for the public.