Argentina posts record number of coronavirus cases as Copa America nears

Buenos Aires, May 28 (EFE).- Argentina continues to feel the impact of a second coronavirus wave as it readies to host the Copa America soccer tournament, with new confirmed cases hitting a record daily high this week despite the enactment of stringent health measures.

South America’s soccer championship, which is scheduled to begin on June 13, was to have been jointly hosted by Argentina and Colombia. But due to the complicated health situation and social unrest in that latter country, Argentina has taken sole responsibility and now is evaluating how to safely put on the event.

In that regard, South America’s soccer confederation (Conmebol) said in a statement Wednesday it had held meetings with Argentina’s government to evaluate the organizational and logistical aspects of the tournament and possibly get additional sites ready to host matches.

Conmebol’s deputy secretary-general, Gonzalo Belloso, said for his part in remarks to Buenos Aires’ Radio la Red that the health strategy revolves around the vaccination of all participating delegations.

The health emergency in Argentina led the government to impose harsh restrictions on mobility last week for a period of 10 days, including the suspension of all non-essential, in-person activities – from church services to schooling to social gatherings – and a curfew lasting from 6 pm to 6 am.

But those measures, which are scheduled to end on Sunday, thus far have not succeeded in reducing the number of cases, which climbed to a record high of 41,080 on Thursday.

The vaccine campaign, meanwhile, is steadily advancing in that nation of 45 million people, with 11.67 million doses administered thus far and 2.6 million people having received a full two-dose vaccine series.

Health Minister Carla Vizzotti said Thursday on Twitter that nearly 2.8 million vaccine doses had arrived this week and are now being distributed and that more than 2.1 million doses of the vaccine that was developed by the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca and is being jointly produced by Argentina and Mexico will be arriving on Monday morning at Ezeiza International Airport outside Buenos Aires.

In Buenos Aires, one of the areas hardest-hit by the second wave of the pandemic, people between the ages of 45 and 59 are now eligible to be vaccinated if they have one or more risk factors that indicate a higher likelihood for serious disease, the capital’s health secretary, Fernan Quiros, wrote on Twitter.

He told reporters on Friday that caution is still in order and that new data on coronavirus infections is needed before restrictions can be lifted, though adding that it is a priority of the Buenos Aires government to reopen schools.

“If conditions were in place, schools are the first thing we’d open,” Quiros said.

The occupancy rate of intensive care beds, which currently stands at 76.2 percent nationwide and at 77.5 percent in the heavily populated Buenos Aires metropolitan area, is a key factor that authorities will weigh before easing their coronavirus restrictions.

Argentina has recorded 3,663,215 confirmed coronavirus cases and 76,135 deaths attributed to Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic there in March 2020. EFE


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