Omicron, US Case Files and Covid-19: Live Updates

Credit…Agustin Marcarian / Reuters

A few weeks ago, many Argentines believed the worst of the pandemic was behind them. Cases were on the decline, vaccination rates were high, and intensive care units when full had plenty of beds to spare. The president’s spokesperson, Gabriela Cerruti, tweeted in mid-November that “the pandemic is over”.

Then came Christmas.

What had been a steady stream of new cases has increased over the past week – and the numbers keep rising. It marks a surprising turnaround for Argentina and raises questions about what will happen to other countries in South America, a region that has already suffered greatly during the pandemic.

Source: Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). The daily average is calculated with the data that has been reported in the last seven days.

Led by Brazil, which has the world’s second-largest death toll, and Peru, which had an even higher per capita death rate, South America was the epicenter of the pandemic earlier this year. But infections have fallen sharply as vaccination rates have skyrocketed.

“There is a real risk of a regional increase,” said Dr Sylvain Aldighieri, responsible for Covid-19 incidents for the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the World Health Organization.

Covid-19 cases have also increased steadily in Bolivia, with signs of a potential increase in Uruguay and Paraguay.

Even though South America is in the middle of summer, when people are spending more time outdoors, vacations also lead to an increase in travel. And there “has really been a decrease in the implementation of social distancing measures,” Dr Aldighieri said.

In Argentina, the Delta variant and the highly infectious Omicron variant are circulating, officials said, although Delta remains predominant.

Omicron has been detected in 25 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, but it will be weeks before its potential impact in the region becomes clear, Dr Aldighieri said, adding that genomic sequencing is limited in many. countries and that Omicron will coexist. with other variations.

Over the past week in Argentina, an average of 15,690 new cases have been reported daily, according to data compiled by the New York Times. From Monday to Tuesday, 33,902 new cases were reported, the highest figure since June 2, according to the health ministry. The city of Buenos Aires and the central province of Cordoba, which is particularly affected, recorded their highest figures since the start of the pandemic.

The test centers were almost empty just a few weeks ago. Now, the queues are long and the positivity rate is approaching 30%, according to figures from the Ministry of Health.

Despite the sharp increase in cases, President Alberto Fernández on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of imposing mobility restrictions at the height of the summer vacation. The country suffered one of the strictest quarantines in the world at the start of the pandemic.

For now, officials are optimistic that the growing number of cases has not translated into over-runs of intensive care units and an increase in the death toll.

“Compared to other waves, the number we have now is less than 1,000 people in intensive care units and the number of deaths is very stable,” Health Minister Carla Vizzotti said on Tuesday, in a radio interview, urging citizens to get vaccinated as the best way to fight the rise.

Even though South America later started immunizing its population than much of the world, it now has a higher vaccination rate than Europe, North America and Asia, and skepticism significantly lower with regard to vaccines.

Chile has fully immunized 87 percent of its population, one of the highest rates in the world. Argentina’s population is now 72 percent fully immunized and that of Brazil 68 percent. By comparison, the United States has fully immunized 62% of its population.

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