Argentina faces a double dilemma - go back into lockdown and see the economy slump further or let cases keep on rising.
TERESA BO: Food is a human right, say this people in the center of Buenos Aires. They gathered in Argentina's capital to demand more government help. Sebastian Zubizarreta says, poverty rates are on the rise and millions of people are struggling to survive.
SEBASTIAN ZUBIZARRETA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: We understand the way it is with work and that we're in a complex situation, but there are resources. The government will have to choose whether to continue paying for foreign debt or take care of those people that can barely make ends meet.
TERESA BO: The pandemic poses a major challenge for Argentina. The government is already assisting over 10 million people with food and cash handouts, but the economy has deteriorated rapidly. The country is struggling to pay its foreign debt and still every day, around 20,000 new infections are confirmed. There is an evening curfew here in the capital and access to public transport is limited, but authorities are reluctant to declare another full lockdown like they did last year fearing the consequences that might come from closing the economy completely.
ADOLFO RUBINSTEIN: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: There's no social margin to shut down everything. There are lots of people that don't eat meat if they don't work. The government has fewer tools than they did last year and that's why it's crucial to accelerate the vaccination campaign. They cannot focus only on restrictions because there is no support and there is need on the street.
TERESA BO: Even though Argentina has one of the strongest public health care systems in Latin America, institutions and workers here are under stress. The rising infections in this past weeks have most hospitals in Buenos Aires at full capacity. In some locations, they're already transferring patients to other areas in order to cope with the demand. In this hospital, people have been waiting for hours to go inside an emergency room. Antonio Laureano is a construction worker and says, he rushed to the hospital because he was feeling ill.
ANTONIO LAUREANO: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: My throat hurts. My back hurts. I have difficulty breathing. I've been waiting for a while to see a doctor.
TERESA BO: But experts say, this is the beginning of a second wave. With a long winter ahead and scarce resources, authorities are evaluating when is the best time to shut down. Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera, Buenos Aires.