Argentina breaks COVID-19 case record as infections near 110,000

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina reported a record number of COVID-19 cases on Thursday for a third day in a row at nearly 110,000, as the highly infectious Omicron variant drives a third pandemic wave in the South American nation.

The record tally of 109,608 in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere summer holiday season with tourist centers full of travelers, has not translated into a similar exponential rise in COVID-related deaths, which totaled 40, the governnent said.

"We do not have a strong impact on intensive therapy units and less in terms of deaths," the chief of staff of the Ministry of Health, Sonia Tarragona, told local radio station Urbana Play. "The cases are mild or moderate and they are not putting stress on the health system."

Argentina accelerated its vaccination campaign in recent months, which started with the Sputnik V vaccine, then added AstraZeneca and Sinopharm and, later, CanSino, Pfizer and Moderna.

Tarragona said she does not know "what the ceiling for infections is going to be," but some experts believe the true number among the country's 45 million population is already significant.

"Today in Argentina we could be quietly at around 150,000 or 200,000 cases of new infections per day," biochemist Jorge Geffner told Reuters.

He estimated that the infection peak could come in mid-January.

Neighboring Brazil had 35,826 new daily cases and 128 deaths, the government said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Agustin Geist and Lucila Sigal; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by John Stonestreet, Mark Porter and Richard Pullin)

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