After more than five months of strict lockdowns, Argentina’s coronavirus crisis is only getting worse, piling the problems onto a government that just restructured billions of dollars of debt.
Almost 47 percent 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 Organisation suggests nations push the rate below five percent 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 percent, the most among the top 20 countries. India’s cases grew nine percent 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 percent 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 Fernández warns the health system is almost at capacity.
The Peronist leader, who has seen his popularity wane after an initial surge due to quick lockdowns in March, recently extended restrictions until September 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 lockdown is taking a heavy toll on an already beleaguered economy. GDP is estimated to contract 12.5 percent this year, with unemployment already above 10 percent. The government, which took office in December, in recent days sealed a US$65-billion debt restructuring agreement with creditors and must now sit with the International Monetary Fund to craft a plan to pay back US$44 billion.
Even with the pace of case growth accelerating, Fernández’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, Buenos Aires City enjoyed its first day of outdoor restaurant dining since March 20.
In total, Latin America and the Caribbean – a region with eight percent of the world’s population – now accounts for about 30 percent of cases and fatalities. There have been 7.3 million infections recorded and 276,000 deaths from the virus.
by Patrick Gillespie, Bloomberg