BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina surpassed 900,000 cases of coronavirus on Monday, with strong growth of infections in large populated centers in the interior of the country after months of the virus’ being concentrated in Buenos Aires and its suburbs.
The government late last week tightened restrictions on the movement of people in 18 provinces for two weeks due to the growth of COVID-19 cases. On Monday, the Health Ministry said the death toll reached 24,186 and the number of infections totaled 903,730. During the previous 24 hours, 318 deaths and 9,524 new cases were reported.
As an example of the virus’ spreading outside of Buenos Aires, in areas untouched by the virus in the early days of the pandemic, more than 90% of the intensive-care beds at the Centenario hospital in the city of Rosario, 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, are occupied by COVID-19 patients, hospital staff told Reuters.
Rosario is the main ports hub carrying agricultural commodities from the Pampas farm belt to export markets. Argentina is a major global soybean, corn and wheat supplier.
“Hopefully we continue as we are, with 95% to 97% occupancy (of ICU beds) and that narrow margin will allow us to have a reasonable turn-over of beds,” Rosario intensive care doctor Juan Pendino, 62, told Reuters.
Over the last week Argentina registered almost 100,000 new cases, with a positive rate of 72.5% as of Sunday, one of the highest levels in the world.
“We are not going to have normalcy again – neither in the short- nor medium-term – until we have a high rate of immunization of the population, either naturally or through a vaccine,” Gerardo Laube, an infectious disease doctor at the Muniz Hospital in Buenos Aires, told local radio on Monday.
Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Juan Bustamante; writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Leslie Adler