Argentina reported almost 13,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Friday – the highest number in a single day since mid-January.
The news came just a day after the government announced it was suspending flights from Brazil, Chile and Mexico amid a regional surge in cases, with fears of new more contagious strains of the virus dominating local outlets.
According to the daily update provided by the Health Ministry, on Friday 12,936 new cases were registered, along with 143 people fatalities.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Argentina has now recorded 2.29 million infections and 55,235 deaths from the virus.
Regarding intensive care units, the portfolio – headed by Health Minister Carla Vizzotti – said that 55.1 percent of beds in ICUs are occupied, rising to 58.6% in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, where 15 million of Argentina’s 44-million-strong live.
In recent weeks, speculation has grown over when the country will be hit by the so-called “second wave” – a renewed surge in infections, as experienced by several European nations over the Winter. A gradual increase has been seen in Argentina this month, but officials had to go back until January 14 to find a higher one-day tally, when 13, 281 cases were recorded in a single day.
With the coronavirus pandemic spreading out of control in neighbouring Brazil, the Alberto Fernández administration this week announced new measures to limit the entry of different strains into the country.
In a notice published in the Official Gazette, the government announced that it was suspending flights from Brazil, Chile and Mexico starting this Saturday (March 27). Those three nations join a list also featuring the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
"Until further notice, regular flights will be suspended from... Chile, Brazil, Mexico," the government said in a statement.
According to the notice, signed by Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero, the country's borders will be closed for tourism, so anyone who is not Argentine or is not a resident of Argentina who wants to enter national territory for tourism purposes will no longer be able to do so.
Travellers returning to Argentina from overseas will also face testing before boarding a flight, upon arrival and seven days after landing. The cost of all three PCR tests will be paid by those seeking to re-enter the country.
According to government officials, the decision was taken as a result of the rising numbers of infections and deaths seen in recent weeks, the proliferation of new strains of the virus in national territory and to put a block on the influx of tourists.
Last week, the government urged Argentines to avoid unnecessary trips abroad to control the entry of new variants of the virus into the country.
According to government sources, as quoted by AFP on Friday, there are currently around 27,000 Argentines outside the country.
Last week, more than one hundred teenagers returning from Cancún, Mexico, having taken an end of school year trip, tested positive for Covid-19 upon entering Ezeiza international airport, despite having tested negative before boarding the plane.
Friday did bring some good news for the government, however, as officials confirmed the arrival of a new load of 370,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.
The shipment, carried as usual by state airline Aerolíneas Argentinas from Moscow, means that Health Ministry officials have now taken delivery of around 1.2 million shots in just eight days. In total, around 2.47 million jabs, produced by the Russian laboratory Galameya, have now arrived in Argentina.
The government, which began inoculating its population against Covid-19 on December 29, has received a total of 5,250,540 doses of three different vaccines so far, according to an official statement.
The Health Ministry also announced that it will prioritise inoculation with the first dose after agreeing with provincial governors to defer the application of the second doses for three months.
"The decision aims to vaccinate as many people as possible with the first dose to maximise the benefits of vaccination and reduce the impact of hospitalisations and mortality from this cause," said a statement from the Health portfolio.
Until this Friday, 3,474,415 million doses were applied. Only around 650,000 people have received two doses.