With nearly 80,000 dead, Argentines struggle under weight of COVID-19

For lawyer Lidia Alverisi, the COVID-19 pandemic in Argentina has taken an almost unbearable toll.

“We all lost someone, someone we knew well,” she told Reuters. “In my case, it was friends I’ve known for 40 years who were gone in just 10 days.”

The South American nation is gripped by a second wave of the virus that began in mid-February, bringing hospitals near saturation point and their citizens to despair.

As of Friday, Argentina was just a hair’s breadth in confirmation of 80,000 deaths from the disease among its 45 million citizens, with nearly 3.9 million cases in total.

It is currently the third highest in the world for average daily cases with more total registered per capita cases than the regional giant Brazil.

The government has struggled to strike a balance between lockdowns and sustaining the already battered economy, as well as pushing a vaccine campaign that started slowly and that medical professionals say will not be able to lower infection rates for several months.

“I think deaths could have been avoided if the government had been more focused on vaccines and people had been more respectful of the lockdowns,” said 17-year-old student Martina Dawin.

However, others argue that the government’s priority should have been to protect people from further economic trouble after three years of recession.

Diego Peralta said he voted for left Argentine President Alberto Fernandez but lost confidence because of the extended bans. “I feel bad for my fellow citizens who are having a bad time, but COVID-19 is secondary when there is no food to give your child,” he said.

Argentina is vaccinating its citizens against COVID-19 with Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccines, the AstraZeneca-Jab developed with Oxford University, and Sinopharm from China.

Since the campaign began on Christmas Eve last year, the country has had 13.4 million vaccinations, although only about 3 million people have received the full double dose.

Argentina’s Health Minister Carla Vizzotti insisted that while the number of deaths was alarming, the decline in the number of people over 60 who were vaccinated first was a sign that the country was moving in the right direction.

The specialist in infectious diseases Dr. Roberto Debbag said there was still a long way to go.

“We’ll have high or medium numbers until more than 30 or 40 percent of the population is vaccinated with two doses,” he said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next three months.”

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