Buenos Aires, Apr 29 (EFE).- Fears over the collapse of Argentina’s hospitals, where some ICUs are already filled to capacity, are keeping the country on tenterhooks as authorities finalize new measures to deal with the record number of Covid-19 cases and deaths amid the pandemic’s second wave.
A total of 283,779 people are currently sick with Covid-19 in Argentina, of whom 23,178 were diagnosed in just the past 24 hours, according to the latest official figures, which also show that the pandemic in Argentina has taken 62,947 lives, 348 in the past day.
Just in the Buenos Aires metro area, where some 15 million people live both in the capital itself and the surrounding urban ring and which has been the area hardest hit by the virus, both public and private intensive care units (ICUs) are at an average 76.8 percent capacity, a number that varies from hospital to hospital.
“At this point, we’re at 92 percent overall occupancy and 80 percent of the ICU beds, but it’s a question of hours before we’re fully occupied because two ambulances are arriving with patients from other institutions,” Mario Kanashiro, the medical director for the Santa Clara Sanatorium, in the town of Florencio Varela, told EFE.
He said that this is the “worst moment” of the pandemic so far, given that last October, when the first wave’s caseload peak was hit, with just over 18,000 newly detected cases in one 24-hour period, his hospital was at full capacity “for three days,” and currently total bed occupancy has been above 90 percent for the past three weeks.
He also warned that there are more and more patients under age 60 who are needing ICU treatment, although last year it was “exceptional” for people from that age group to require such intensive care.
On Friday, the phase of restrictions implemented by the Alberto Fernandez government on April 16 will expire, a move made to try and halt the precipitous rise in cases in Buenos Aires and its environs. The restrictions include a ban on nighttime driving and a controversial closure of schools that put the national and opposition-controlled capital governments at odds, with the latter resorting to a court order to keep them open.
But the problem hasn’t been solved because newly confirmed daily cases remain above 20,000, and to determine how to proceed the president in the past two days has met with 22 provincial governors and Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta.
As a result, in the coming hours Fernandez is expected to announce new measures for the capital metro area.
The measures on the table include a plan to end in-person school classes altogether, although the capital government’s stance is that these should be the last things to be closed down. Nevertheless, in towns around the city’s periphery, which are under the Fernandez-supporting provincial government’s jurisdiction, classes have been held virtually since April 19.
Among the new measures that may be implemented in the city, where a curfew is in force from 8 pm to 6 am, is to order businesses to close earlier and to increase enforcement of the already-existing restrictions.
Meanwhile, the country’s vaccination program and government negotiations to reach an agreement with the Pfizer pharmaceutical firm – which have been spurred to new life after three months of stagnation – are proceeding, even as public uneasiness over the AstraZeneca vaccine is widespread.
The country in November 2020 had signed a contract with AstraZeneca to receive its vaccine, but the doses have never arrived.
Since December, Argentina has been receiving mainly doses of Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm vaccines, along with smaller amounts of Covishield made in India and produced with AstraZeneca technology, as well as some via the United Nations’ Covas platform.
So far, 6.8 million people have received one dose of the various vaccines and 908,441 have received two doses, mainly seniors and health personnel.
A shipment of one million doses of Sinopharm is expected to arrive on Thursday and on Friday a new shipment of Sputnik V is anticipated.