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ARGENTINA | 25-07-2020 09:27

Concern as virus surges at ‘alarming’ rate in Buenos Aires Province

Kicillof offers 500-peso daily stipend to encourage those with ‘mild’ Covid-19 to self-isolate, amid fears for health system. Infections on rise in at least 21 of the 35 Greater Buenos Aires districts, says IIE research institute

The surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases and fatalities this past week in Argentina has raised concerns about the capacity of the nation’s health system, especially in Buenos Aires and its heavily populated periphery, where 90 percent of the infections are concentrated.

The country has recorded around a hundred deaths daily since Monday, almost double the average of the previous week. Confirmed cases also grew from 3,800 daily averages last week to more than 6,000 on Thursday.

Attention is especially concerned about Buenos Aires Province, where the majority of infections are being recorded. The region reported 3,801 new cases on Wednesday, more than twice as many as in Buenos Aires City, and the largest number of deaths nationwide.

"The trend does not make us think that this will improve," admitted Buenos Aires Province's Deputy Health Minister Nicolás Kreplak on Thursday.

"The numbers that we are seeing is alarming; we cannot continue with this growth rate," he said in an interview with Futurock radio.

Kicillof offers stipend

Authorities said they aim to cut the coronavirus transmission chain after becoming the epicentre of the pandemic in the country. Governor Axel Kicillof said this week that the province will pay citizens with mild cases of coronavirus 500 pesos per day (US$6.97) if they stay for 10 days in government facilities. He described the payment as "a subsidy for being uprooted and solidarity."

Speaking alongside national Health Minister Ginés González García, Kicillof said that the region had "more than 13,000 beds for patients with mild Covid-19."

After three weeks of allowing only essential activities in Greater Buenos Aires, the national government last week gave the green light for certain activities to resume and stores to reopen amid concern over the economy, which is expected to suffer its deepest-ever recession in 2020.

Infections have risen by over 30 percent in at least 21 of the 35 Greater Buenos Aires districts over the last 10 days, the Institute of Epidemiological Research (IIE in its Spanish acronym) said this week.. 

Covid-19 is widespread throughout the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA), both City and Province. This in conjunction with the poor compliance with quarantine and the requirements of personal protection (use of face-masks, social distancing, avoidance of crowds and voluntary isolation if any symptoms) has led to a surge in coronavirus cases in the last few weeks in the region. 

“Analysing the data, apart from the 30-plus percent growth in coronavirus cases in a majority of Greater Buenos Aires districts (21 of the 35), six have increased by more than 50 percent: Exaltación de la Cruz, Luján, Marcos Paz, Cañuelas, San Fernando and San Isidro,” said a new daily report from the IIE (belonging to the National Academy of Medicine).

The IIE warned, however, that the growth “is not a result of the last opening up of quarantine but predates it.” To know the impact of the latest more flexible phase of quarantine beginning last Monday (July 20), it would be necessary to wait at least 10 days until the end of the month, said the institute.

Health system

Fears are also focusing the health system, though the chief of the expert advisory team to the provincial health portfolio, Enio García, said this week that in the public health system "there are some saturated institutions, but there is still space."

The National Health Ministry said Thursday that the occupation of beds in intensive care units stood at 55.4 percent in the entire territory and 64 percent in the AMBA region.

However, in the private system, occupation "has reached 90 percent of its floor capacity for care and 80 percent in intensive care," said Claudio Belocopitt, the president of the Argentine Union of Private Health Entities.

"The trend of the last few weeks produces an orange alert – if this continues there is no doubt that the system will suffer," he said Wednesday in a virtual conference with foreign press outlets.

According to Belocopitt, the private health system serves 70 percent of the population, around 30 million people.

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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