Until last month, Argentina was one of the countries with the fewest cases of coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University survey. But the situation has changed dramatically since then.
In a matter of days, the country climbed several positions in the ranking and surpassed several nations, such as Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia.
Today, Argentina is the fifth country with the most coronavirus records in the world, with 949 thousand, although it is the 12th in the total of deaths, with 25.3 thousand.
In a speech broadcast on TV, President Alberto Fernández said that despite the contagion curve in the metropolitan region of the capital Buenos Aires, which has already reached 85% of those infected, it has stabilized, the coronavirus “has spread throughout Argentina “.
Argentine doctor Oscar Cingolani, a professor at Johns Hopkins, points out that Argentina is today among the countries with the highest rates of new cases per million inhabitants.
He also points out that the dynamics of the Argentine epidemic was different from other countries that today are among the most affected by the coronavirus.
“Unlike Brazil and the United States, Argentina did not have an initial peak,” says Congolani.
“Now, cases are falling in Brazil, and in Argentina, we see a slow and steady growth.”
National and mandatory quarantine
A few days after the confirmation of the first case of the new coronavirus in Argentina, Fernández implemented, on March 20, a national and mandatory quarantine.
He also brought together a team of infectologists and started talking to Argentines almost weekly about the importance of preventing covid-19.
The use of masks was soon popularized and it became rare to see someone without one on the streets of the country.
The government spread posters asking people to stay at home, suspended domestic and international flights and restricted the use of public transport, which became exclusive to essential workers, such as health professionals and supermarket workers.
In the first months, the measures were supported by a large part of the population. Governors and mayors followed the directions of the president, even those who oppose his government.
“The quarantine helped the country to strengthen its health system and prevent several deaths,” Congolani.
Records of cases and deaths
But official data show that the country’s pandemic has never been more severe than it is now, almost eight months after the pandemic hit Argentina.
On Thursday (10/15), the highest daily number of new cases was recorded: 17.09 thousand. The death record was set on October 8, with 515 deaths recorded in a single day.
One of the reasons for this worsening was the spread of the coronavirus in the interior of the country, says Omar Sued, president of the Argentine Society of Infectious Diseases.
Until recently, there were practically no cases of the disease inside. But the reopening in early September was done without the same virus prevention protocols that were applied in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, and in the Province of Buenos Aires.
The lack of precaution made the interior a fertile ground for the advancement of covid-19. “Today, the situation is delicate,” says Sued.
Inland, conditions for coronavirus testing are often more limited. To this is added the fact that people are already tired of fulfilling the confinement.
For Sued, who is part of the team of infectologists who advise the Presidency, another factor that makes it even harder to fight the epidemic now is that opposition governors no longer demonstrate the same willingness to act in line with the federal government’s health guidelines.
“Some even encourage the use of drugs that have not yet proven their effect,” he says.
Doctor Marcelo Nahin, transplant coordinator at the El Cruce High Complexity Hospital, says that Argentina behaved as if it were really two countries.
“While the cases were concentrated in the metropolitan region of Buenos Aires, people in the interior of the country lived almost normal lives. They went out to dinner and had family meetings,” says Nahin.
The doctor estimates that this contributed to the circulation of the virus. At the same time, barriers on roads and airports, created by several municipalities and provinces to prevent or limit the entry of those who did not live in these places, seem not to have had the expected effects.
Nahin notes that the average age of those infected in Argentina is 36 years, which indicates that the younger ones relaxed in prevention because they believed they would be less affected by the virus.
While the elderly took more care, the younger ones continued to leave home normally and may have passed the virus on to family members, says Nahin.
Critics of the long quarantine carried out in the country also say that, over that time, the population lost its fear of contracting the covid-19.
Along with this, the need to leave for work, in a country where informality affects more than 40% of the economically active population, also spoke louder, observes Adolfo Rubinstein, who was Minister of Health in the government of Mauricio Macri, an opponent of Fernández .
Rubinstein said the quarantine “was too long” and that, in practice, it was no longer respected two or three months after it started.
“Confinement has limits. If Argentina had carried out more tests for coronavirus, it could have isolated those that tested positive and prevented the proliferation of the virus. The use of the quarantine, as a preventive measure, was exaggerated and still affected the country’s economy,” he says. him.
In turn, Sued says that, with the quarantine, the country can build twelve hospitals and has expanded testing in the last months from 300 to 25,000 daily exams.
“For a country with financial limitations, we are doing little. On the contrary,” says Sued.