Argentina has become the fifth country with more than 1 million cases of coronavirus, its health ministry confirmed on Monday, making it by far the smallest nation to reach the grim milestone after infections accelerated in recent weeks.
There were 1,002,662 confirmed cases of the virus in the South American country on Monday night, the ministry said in a statement. Over the past 24 hours, 12,982 new cases and 451 deaths were reported, it said.
The latest figures put it alongside the United States, India, Brazil and Russia, all with populations that greatly exceeded Argentina’s 45 million people, according to a Reuters figure.
Argentina is also struggling with low test levels. But for those who are tested, more than 60% of recent tests come back positive, one of the world’s highest positivity rates.
The explosion in cases has strained hospitals and the health work with intensive care units in the country more than 64% occupied. In some provinces, health systems are on the verge of being overwhelmed.
“I want this to end now. I can not continue at this pace,” said Cynthia Jiménez, a resident intensive care physician at Hospital Posadas in Buenos Aires province, the country’s hardest hit area.
“It tires you to see people getting sick with respiratory failure and you have to save them,” she added. “And you know that if you intubate them, it will end badly for many. It hurts.”
Argentina imposed strict quarantine measures on March 20, shortly after the country’s first Covid-19 case was confirmed, which initially helped curb the spread of the virus.
The government has since eased restrictions in many parts of the country to help revive economic growth, which has led to an increase in infections. More than 26,000 people have died of a Covid-19 mortality of approx. 2.7% according to Heallth Ministry data.
Argentina’s borders remain closed to tourism, even though domestic flights are resumed by people with government approval to travel for medical, family or work reasons.