Argentina's Coast Guard (Prefecura Naval) is guarding two fishing trawlers at Puerto Deseado in the Province of Santa Cruz as cases of covid-19 erupted among the crews, one sailor having already died of the disease.
The chief engineer of the Argentine flagged Xin Shi Ji 89 named Manuel Quiquente, aged 68, had perished as a consequence of the pandemic disease and his body was taken ashore at Puerto Deseado. A similar outbreak has been reported to have occurred on board the jigger Anabella M.
Quique died after he showed the first symptoms of what seemed to be covid-19 and which was corroborated posthumously. Since his death took place at sea, it fell under the jurisdiction of federal, not local authorities. Six of Quiquente's colleagues also tested positive for coronavirus.
Local authorities now fear the covid-19 outbreaks aboard jiggers might lead to a collapse of the Río Gallegos health system. On Saturday 37 positive cases had been detected at Puerto Deseado (33 sailors and four locals), with 12 people already discharged as five others remained hospitalized and one of them even died.
In the Anabella M case, 40 of the 56 crew members tested positive for coronavirus after the ship moored in Puerto Deseado with several sailors with symptoms of the disease.
Fishermen's unions had demanded their workers needed to be vaccinated following World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations that aircrews and sailors were “essential” and should be included among the priority groups. Lawyer Lorena Arias said that 45 countries have already followed these guidelines but Argentina was not one of them because they are not considered essential. She warned that the conditions under which fishing is carried out mean that the minimum measures of hygiene and adequate medical care cannot be guaranteed.
Meanwhile, Argentina's Center for Overseas Captains and Officers of the Merchant Navy joined the claim. In their view, maritime workers ”constitute the only group that assumes an additional risk because, in many cases, if a contagion occurs, it could be several days before those affected can access medical care, due to the ship's position and weather conditions.”
In a similar development, a 51-year-old Spanish boatswain identified P. J. also died in Montevideo of covid-19. He had served for the past 25 years on the Playa de Sartaxens where the Sars-Cov-2 got hold of the crew. P.J. had been admitted into a Montevideo hospital a fortnight ago after his condition deteriorated.
His death sparked very much the same demand which ensued the Puerto Deseado cases: that seamen be vaccinated. Shipowners Cooperative Deputy Manager Edelmiro Ulloa insisted: “The crews must be vaccinated; we have been asking for it since December and it seems that the Minister of Health does not understand it.”