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Argentina’s Covid Outbreak Worsens With 47% of Tests Positive

Argentina’s Covid Outbreak Worsens With 47% of Tests Positive

13:24 - Nearly one in two people tested in Argentina are positive. Argentina passed Chile to have 10th-most cases globally

After more than five months of strict lock-downs, Argentina’s coronavirus crisis is only getting worse, piling the problems onto a government that just restructured billions of dollars of debt.

Almost 47% of people tested get a positive result back. The higher the rate, the more testing is needed to detect, trace and isolate infections. The World Health Organization suggests nations push the rate below 5% for several weeks before reopening their economies.

Argentina passed Chile to claim the 10th spot in most cases globally, with 417,735 infections and 8,730 confirmed deaths. Over the past week alone, cases have risen 9.9%, the most among the top 20 countries. India’s cases grew 9% in the period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Argentina has more than twice as many people as Chile, which has managed to squash an uptick in its test positivity and push its rate back down to 5.4% in recent weeks.

The virus in Argentina initially spread in the capital of Buenos Aires and surrounding areas, but it has recently moved to smaller and poorer provinces after months of no or few cases there. In some places, such as Jujuy province near Bolivia, President Alberto Fernandez warns the health system is almost at capacity.

Fernandez, who has seen his popularity wane after an initial surge due to quick lock-downs in March, recently extended restrictions until Sept. 20. That would mark six full months of quarantine, although enforcement has grown more lax. Travel between cities and provinces has been restricted, along with domestic and international flights.

The prolonged lock-down is taking a heavy toll on an already beleaguered economy. GDP is estimated to contract 12.5% this year, with unemployment already above 10%. The government, which took office in December, in recent days sealed a $65 billion debt restructuring agreement with creditors and must now sit with the International Monetary Fund to craft a plan to pay back $44 billion.

Even with the pace of case growth accelerating, Fernandez’s government is loosening some measures as quarantine-fatigued citizens lose their patience. Social gatherings of up to 10 people in open-air settings are now allowed in most provinces. And on Monday, the city of Buenos Aires enjoyed its first day of outdoor restaurant dining since March 20.

In total, Latin America and the Caribbean -- a region with 8% of the world’s population -- now accounts for about 30% of cases and fatalities. There have been 7.3 million infections recorded and 276,000 deaths from the virus.

Elsewhere in Latin America:
Brazil posted its steepest contraction for a quarter on record, though Latin America’s largest economy fared better than many regional peers.
Cash handouts to the poor during the pandemic in Brazil will be halved to 300 reais ($56) a month from 600 reais now.

Country Cases Deaths
Brazil 3,908,272 121,381
Perú 647,166 28,788
Colombia 615,094 19,662
México 599,560 64,414
Argentina 417,735 8,730
Chile 413,145 11,321
Bolivia 116,598 5,027
Ecuador 113,767 6,556
Dominican Republic 94,715 1,710
Panamá 92,982 2,002
Guatemala 74,074 2,760
Honduras 61,014 1,873
Venezuela 46,728 386
Costa Rica 41,287 436
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