BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina on Wednesday reported more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, a heavy blow to a country that intermittently imposed some of the most severe lockdowns in the world, only to see erratic compliance by many people.
Some 614 people died from the disease in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 100,250, the Health Ministry said.
“I feel bad, it’s not what we thought would happen. … This is a hard, very hard statistic,” said Luis Cámera, a doctor who specializes in gerontology and is an adviser on the pandemic to the government of President Alberto Fernández.
Cámera attributed the high toll to ″some errors″ during periodic lockdowns as well damage inflicted by virus variants that swept through the region.
″The Argentine quarantine was prolonged on paper but not on how people behaved,” Cámera said.
He was alluding to large gatherings of people that defied social distancing guidance and may have helped spread the virus in late 2020. There were demonstrations over the death of soccer star Diego Maradona and the approval in Congress of a law allowing abortion in most instances.
Cámera added that a second wave of the coronavirus at the end of March “came earlier than it should have come,” in part “due to the misconduct of the people and with new, very aggressive variants.”
Moreover, Argentina was struggling economically even before the pandemic and many citizens ignored quarantine regulations so they could make a living and support their families.
Then restrictions on gatherings were relaxed over the Christmas holidays and Argentina’s southern hemisphere summer, encouraging people to let down their guard and spend time together. The vaccination effort has also been lagging.
The United States has confirmed the most COVID-19 deaths at about 608,000, followed by Brazil (536,000), India (411,000), Mexico (235,000) and Peru (195,000). France, Russia, Britain, Italy and Colombia have each reported well over 100,000 deaths, according to the coronavirus resource center of Johns Hopkins University.
The center said about 4,052,000 people around the world are confirmed to have died from COVID-19. The death toll is believed to be much higher in many countries because of misdiagnoses, inadequate testing and other factors.
Argentina has reported more than 4.6 million coronavirus infections. Doctors say many of those who are dying are between 40 and 60 years old and were infected about two months ago, before they had the chance to get vaccinated. The longer the hospital stay, the more likely the chance of increasing health complications and death.
Edgardo Alvites Guerrero, head of intensive therapy at Llavallol Hospital in Buenos Aires, said the pace of the first doses of various vaccines had advanced well lately.
But, he said, ″it is far from ideal″ because it would be best for most people to get two vaccine doses ahead of the expected spread of the more contagious Delta variant.
So far, 15 cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus have been identified in Argentina and were linked to “international travelers” or people related to them, according to the Ministry of Health. Nine cases were detected in the last week and came from the United States, Mexico and Paraguay.
Argentina has a population of about 45 million. Some 20.6 million people have received a first dose of the three available types of vaccines —- Sputnik, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm — and about 5.1 million have received two doses, according to official figures.
“It is to be expected that a new wave will come … we are in the calm before the storm,” said therapist Gubby Auza while monitoring several COVID-19 patients in an intensive care room at Llavallol. They were all under 60 years old.
Argentine Paola Almirón was hospitalized last year with COVID-19 and survived. Her mother, sister, aunt and brother-in-law died of the disease. On Tuesday, she wept while visiting a cemetery to lay flowers at the graves of her lost family members, a year after their funerals.
“My mother died first, two days later my sister and three days later my aunt. It was terrible going to the cemetery with my brother three times in a week, ”said 38-year-old Almirón, a nursing supervisor at the Luisa Cravenna de Gandulfo Interzonal General Hospital in the town of Lomas de Zamora, south of Buenos Aires.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Almirón said she feels some satisfaction whenever she vaccinates someone against COVID-19 and hopes that people will observe masking and social distancing until the pandemic subsides.
“We waited so long,″ she said. ″We were locked up, we went out, we locked ourselves up again; let’s wait a little longer, in a few months, we should all be vaccinated and get out of this.″