Home WORLD With the surge in COVID cases, Argentina is fighting the health and economic crisis | Coronavirus pandemic

With the surge in COVID cases, Argentina is fighting the health and economic crisis | Coronavirus pandemic

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Buenos Aires, Argentina – The streets of Buenos Aires now belong to people like Gabriel Martinez because he looks around for waste cardboard during the dog days of the pandemic to turn it into cash.

His 9-year-old son Benjamin had his legs hanging over the edge of the trolley, and his father returned empty-handed from a pit at a gas station.

Martinez has been collecting cardboard for a living since he was 19 years old, and he is now 34 years old.

He lives on the outskirts of the capital, but he will sleep with his son in a room they rented in a warehouse in Buenos Aires, where he sells his treasures so they can start early and repeat tomorrow.

“It’s not good. Because there is nothing on the street. We walked for a few hours, from five in the morning to midnight,” he said. “Now more people are trying to survive here.”

During the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a man pushes a car [File: Mario De Fina/AP Photo]

As Argentina tried to tame the second wave of COVID-19, which was worse than the first wave, the roaring metropolis fell into silence again.

Last year, the country kept the infection rate at a relatively low level during a strict lockdown that lasted for several months. It allowed the government to strengthen its healthcare system, but it hit the weak economy and caused serious emotional damage to society.

Now, after the summer of relaxation of restrictions and new COVID variants, the number of infections and deaths has increased exponentially.

‘The system is crashing’

As exhausted medical staff begged the public to heed the warning to keep distance and take preventive measures, the hospital unit was overcrowded. In the province of Buenos Aires, the government has begun to produce its own oxygen in response to an imminent shortage.

Vaccine shipments are arriving, but like many countries in Latin America, the movement is progressing slowly amid fierce global competition. Approximately 20% of the population received the first injection.

“The system is collapsing,” Dr. Emmanuel Alvarez wrote in an open letter last month with the title “Desperate Cries from Conurbano,” a densely populated and predominantly working-class city around the capital.

More than 75,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Argentina [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

“The collapse is our dead colleague, more and more young patients between 30 and 50 years old are intubated and out of control, the mutant strains spread, and the number of hospitalized children is the largest,” he wrote.

“They are the ambulances standing at the entrance of the clinic, waiting for the unreached beds and the oxygen pipes that are about to run out… the dead in the house and on the street, the dead who would die without breathing apparatus.”

Three weeks later, on May 19, Argentina recorded 39,652 COVID-19 cases per day, a record high. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the third largest country in South America with a population of 45 million has recorded more than 3.6 million cases and more than 75,000 deaths.

“We are dealing with the worst moment since the pandemic began,” President Alberto Fernandez confirmed in a national speech on May 20, in which he announced the re-closure. “The situation across the country is very serious.”

This quarantine is not as severe as in 2020. People can circulate around their homes from 6 am to 6 pm to buy necessities or take a walk. In some jurisdictions, shops and restaurants are open to provide window services.

But all indoor or outdoor social gatherings are forbidden-churches, entertainment venues and school buildings are closed.

Soaring inflation

At the same time, in a country with a healthy state, the tensions surrounding maintaining health and ensuring economic survival are as severe as ever Long-term high inflation – It is now running at 46% per year.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics and Census of Argentina, the economy contracted by 9.9% last year. The number of people living below the poverty line rose to 42%.

Mason Helius, 26, from Venezuela, outlined how his butcher shop on Scalabrini Ortiz Avenue in Buenos Aires survived.

The number of employees was reduced from seven to three; his days lasted 14 hours and he lived in the attic space above the store. He estimated that sales fell by 50% to 60%.

“We have a restaurant that used to buy 90 kilograms of ground beef every month. Now they need 15 kilograms. From 90 to 15-that means they don’t sell either. If they don’t sell, neither will we,” he said .

His colleague, Mauricio Quiroz, 48, dismissed it. He does not believe in the official death toll, and believes that the government has failed very badly. “They should stabilize the economy,” he said, among customers who came to buy Bundiola (a meat product) and eggs.

Helius also doubted the severity of the health crisis. “I can hardly take care of myself. I walk around, I work, and I don’t use antiseptic alcohol. I am not infected with COVID-19. Neither my wife nor my mother who lives with us. And I don’t know anyone,” He says. “Where are the dead? It must happen where I am not.”

Anti-blockade protest

Distrust of official data is just one of the emotions that drives people across Argentina’s cities to turn Anti-quarantine protest May 25th-This day marks the revolution of 1810 that led to the country’s independence.

Due to the isolation, people avoided wearing masks and refused to disperse orders. In some cities, there were small-scale clashes with the police that led to arrests.

They are not the first such protest here, partly because the right-wing political opposition is preparing for the midterm elections later this year and attacking the center-left Fernandez government over the management of vaccines and restrictions.

During protests against the lockdown measures taken by Argentine President Alberto Fernandez to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a demonstrator held the Argentine flag [File: Agustin Marcarian/AP]

For Angelica Graciano, a teacher in Buenos Aires, political debate helps distract and dilute tragedy.

“There are no hospital beds available. We have lost 18 colleagues and many more are hospitalized or quarantined,” said Graciano, 60, the secretary general of the largest teachers’ union in Buenos Aires. .

With the surge in cases, it has been trying to restore the virtual education model, and the Fernandez government has also tried to impose this. But the Buenos Aires city government insists that keeping schools open is essential.

“They are using statistics to erase human things. A number will make you an anonymous thing,” Graciana said. “Everyone’s life is important. I support the adoption of strict quarantine measures and the government provides necessary financial assistance until we are all vaccinated. This is not detention, but life protection.”

Miriam Zambrano, who lives in the southern province of Chubut, agrees. The retired nurse witnessed how people relax their vigilance in her city, Comodoro Rivadavia, as vaccines are starting to arrive.

The hospital there has also been struggling-children in critical condition have to be sent to Buenos Aires for treatment. Her own seven-year-old granddaughter was infected with the virus. “Poor little guy, she still can’t eat chocolate chip cookies,” Zambrano said.

She added: “There is no epidemic in less than 10 years, so this will not last for a year or two or five years.” “It will take us at least 10 years. We must learn how to take care of each other.”



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