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Argentina partially reopens as it approaches 5 million Covid cases

  • Published at 04:48 am August 7th, 2021
Argentina Covid
File photo: A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against Covid walks past a grocery store in Buenos Aires, Argentina May 31, 2021 Reuters

Infectious disease specialist Jorge Geffner calls some reopening measures irrational

Argentina will relax coronavirus restrictions as infection and mortality rates falls, the government announced on Friday, even as the South American nation approached 5 million cases with more than 107,000 deaths.

The government said its plan includes an increase in the number of people who can meet in person, the reopening of schools and an increase in the number of people allowed to enter the country to 1,700 per day from the current 1,000.

"The more we vaccinate and take care of ourselves, the more we can sustain these achievements and advance in sustained and progressive openings," President Alberto Fernandez said in a recorded TV message.

Vaccinations have increased in recent days after a surge in virus transmission last month, in the dead of the Southern Hemisphere winter when more people were tempted to socialize indoors, away from the icy winds coming up from the Antarctic.

Argentina, with population 45 million, adopted the plan after 10 consecutive weeks of lower case numbers and eight weeks of decreasing deaths.

However, medical experts cautioned against changes that gave the impression the pandemic was over.

The more contagious Delta variant was likely to be spreading within communities already, neurologist Conrado Estol told Reuters, while also highlighting low levels of Covid-19 testing and double-vaccination rates.

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Infectious disease specialist and scientist Jorge Geffner based in Argentina said some reopening measures were "irrational." "There are many statements emanating from the political sphere that give the impression we are post-pandemic and we are not."

A second stage of reopening, depending on infection rates, would include greater capacity for closed-door gatherings, unlimited attendance at open-air events, group trips for those who are fully vaccinated and the reopening of borders to receive vaccinated foreigners.

The program would eventually include reopening outdoor sporting events, of great importance in a nation of football fans. But that will only happen if caseloads continue to fall, Fernandez said.

In news that may convey optimism ahead of November congressional elections, Fernandez said he expects the economy to grow 7% this year after a three-year recession severely exacerbated by the pandemic in 2020.

"The vaccine is the best economic policy. Thanks to vaccination we are recovering," he said.

Shortages of second doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, the jab most frequently administered in the country, has prompted Argentina to offer a second dose of the Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines.

Around 25.84 million people have so far received a first dose, but only 7.98 million a second, according to official data.

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