Argentina record two grim landmarks from the coronavirus pandemic this week, as infections soared past half a million and the death toll exceeded 11,000.
On Friday night, the Health Ministry confirmed 11,507 new infections, lifting the total to date to 535,705. Argentina now ranks among 10th in the world for confirmed cases, and is recording daily totals that are regularly above 10,000.
The highest amount of new cases were registered in Buenos Aires Province (5,732), Buenos Aires City (1,215) and the provinces of Santa Fe (930), Mendoza (695) and Tucumán (472).
Officials also confirmed 154 fatalities over the past 24 hours, lifting the death toll to 11,148. The country ranks 15th globally for this measure, having rising a place this week to overtake Ecuador.
Nationwide, the occupation of beds in intensive care units (ICUs) rose to 61.7 percent, with the figure at 68.5 percent in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA).
The figures arrive amid debate over the future of the coronavirus lockdown. Though restrictions have been relaxed in almost all regions, quarantine measures remain in place, with many activities still yet to receive authorisation to restart.
President Alberto Fernández's government ordered a nationwide lockdown on March 20 and mandatory social isolation rules remained for the first two months. Since then, some businesses have been allowed to re-open, though often with strict health and safety measures in place to ensure the spread of the virus is contained.
At the beginning of the week, there was strong public debate over restrictions in the nation's capital. In Buenos Aires City, bars and restaurants were allowed to re-open last week with customers seated at tables on streets, but the move prompted crowded scenes at a host of establishments that did not or were unable to enforce restrictions.
Referencing the scenes only indirectly, President Fernández said Tuesday that it was "not the time" to see friends, offering an implicit criticism of the relaxation of restrictions for eating and drinking establishments in the City, which is controlled by the opposition.
City Health Minister Fernán Quirós admitted on Monday to journalists that the images that circulated were “not good.” Many, given that they were imbibing and dining, were not using face masks.
City officials closed at least 12 establishments in Palermo, Liniers, Agronomía, Constitución and Caballito on Saturday night that were not following the rules, which include restrictions on the sale of "take away" alcohol after 8pm and strict limits on the presence of customers inside their premises.
Nevertheless, Quirós defended the move to allow eating and drinking establishments to serve customers, which arrive just as coronavirus infection numbers are at their highest point to date in Argentina.
In recent weeks, healthcare professionals broke ground to plead with citizens to remain home and take responsibility for their actions, saying that hospitals and clinics are nearing capacity and that staff are overworked and exhausted after six months battling the pandemic.
In the first few weeks of the virus crisis, more than 95 percent of new cases were being recorded in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA), which encompasses Buenos Aires City and the 40 districts that surround it. Now, however, that number has dropped to around 63 percent, with new Covid-19 infections being recorded in 16 of Argentina's 23 provinces.