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ARGENTINA | 27-06-2020 07:36

Fernández tightens AMBA lockdown until July 17 amid virus surge

Government cranks up coronavirus lockdown in capital, as Peronist leader calls on citizens in Buenos Aires metropolitan to respect restrictions and ‘return to isolation’ until July 17.

President Alberto Fernández announced a toughening of lockdown measures in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) on Friday, confirming that the region would be subject to a stricter quarantine period amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Fernández said Argentina will “isolate” the region from the rest of the country in order to slow the spread of coronavirus in a move that reimposes a tighter lockdown after some restrictions were eased.

In an address aimed at convincing those who are breaking restrictions that his was the correct path (he cited a poll saying that one in five were not respecting the lockdown), the Peronist leader dedicated much of a televised address to winning over doubters, using graphs and data to explain why some Argentines were facing one of the toughest lockdowns in the world. Residents in the AMBA region have now been in isolation for 100 days. 

"We're going back to closing the Buenos Aires metropolitan area so that traffic dramatically decreases, to reduce infections and the need for [hospital] beds," said Fernández.

From July 1 "we're going to ask everyone to return to isolation at home and to only leave to fetch provisions for daily life," he said, flanked as usual by Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof.

The measure will last until July 17 with "only essential services and some industrial zones" remaining operational, the president confirmed.

Public transport will be limited to essential workers and residents will only be allowed out of their homes to buy food, medicine and other basic goods. The tighter lockdown will begin on July 1 and run until July 17.

Rising numbers

The decision comes with coronavirus cases increasing exponentially. Argentina now has more than 1,184 deaths and 55,343 cases, according to figures issued by the Health Ministry at press time.

Fernández, who appeared more irritable than during previous addresses, said the Greater Buenos Aires area, home to 14 million of Argentina's 44 million population, "is infecting the rest of the country," where 80 percent of activity has reopened.

The Peronist leader could not resist a dig at neighbour Brazil's far right President Jair Bolsonaro, saying that Argentina’s prolonged quarantine had "saved lives."

"If Argentina had followed Brazil's rhythm, we'd have 10,000 dead," he said.

The president urged citizens not to get angry at the lockdown, but rather at the disease, saying that “the economic problem is not the quarantine, the economic problem is the pandemic.”

“We know perfectly well that these decisions have an economic consequence,” he added. “I am not a fool. I listen fully to the problems of those who have a business, as well as independent and self-employed workers,” he said.

He acknowledged that the lockdown had "brought very negative consequences" to an economy that has already been suffering from two years of recession and is predicted to shrink by 9.9 percent in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“The economy is deteriorating, but the economy will recover. What unfortunately we are not going to recover are those thousand Argentines who have left us,” he said.

“We know perfectly well that these decisions have an economic consequence,” he added. “I am not a fool. I listen fully to the problems of those who have a business, as well as independent and autonomous workers.”

While Argentina has among the lowest cases and deaths as a size of its population – some 45 million people, the virus has spread faster in recent weeks into poorer neighbourhoods around the capital and ICU bed occupancy rates are close to 50 percent.

The president closed by thanking Argentines for taking care of each other and committing to the lockdown. “Today we have to be more united than ever,” he said.

NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES’

Fernández acknowledged that the lockdown had “brought very negative consequences” to an economy that has already been suffering from two years of recession and is predicted to shrink by 9.9 percent in 2020, according to the Inter- national Monetary Fund.

“The economy is deteriorating, but the economy will recover. What unfortunately we are not going to recover are those thousand Argentines who have left us,” he said.

“We know perfectly well that these decisions have an economic consequence,” added Fernández. “I am not a fool. I listen fully to the problems of those who have a business, as well as independent and autonomous workers.”

While Argentina has among the lowest cases and deaths as a size of its population – some 45 million people, the virus has spread faster in recent weeks into poorer neighbourhoods around the capital and ICU bed occupancy rates are close to 50 percent.

The president closed by thanking Argentines for taking care of each other and committing to the lockdown.

“Today we have to be more united than ever,” he said.

– TIMES/AFP

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