BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina topped two million COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, health officials said, as the country scrambles to ramp up a vaccination program in a race against time to tame the virus ahead of the fast-approaching southern hemisphere autumn.
The Ministry of Health reported 7,739 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to 2,001,034, and 49,674 deaths.
Argentina implemented a strict lockdown in March that lasted for months, with dwindling effect and increasing frustration. Restrictions have since been eased, but a Reuters tally of data shows that daily infections more than doubled following the year-end holidays and during the austral summer.
Pablo Fernandez, a a 51-year-old freelance worker in Buenos Aires, told Reuters his fear was gone even if the virus was not.
"Being afraid for so long, you get used to it," Fernandez said.
Countries in the Americas recorded nearly half of all new COVID-19 cases worldwide over the past week, and deaths continue to rise in the region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
Argentina has thus far received 820,000 doses of Russia´s Sputnik V vaccine, which requires two shots. The deliveries, however, have fallen far short of the government´s promised of 5 million doses by the end of January.
President Alberto Fernández talked this month with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, asking him to help guarantee a fresh supply of the vaccine.
Carlos Kambourian, a pediatrician in Buenos Aires, said the vaccine problem was global, with far fewer doses available than people interested in getting vaccinated.
"There are no vaccines...it is not possible to produce what needs to be produced," he said.
(Reporting by Miguel Lo Bianco y Horacio Soria, writing by Eliana Raszewski and Dave Sherwood; Editing by David Gregorio)