Residents in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) entered a new stage of the coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday, as a new phase of compulsory social isolation kicked in.
As ordered by the government, those living in the capital and its surroundings face tighter restrictions on the use of public transport and strict controls on the circulation of people and social activities. The new rules will last until July 17.
Tightened restrictions have also been introduced in Chaco Province, General Roca in Río Negro Province and urban centres in Neuquén Province.
The measures were introduced by President Alberto Fernández last week after a rise in the number of coronavirus cases over the past few weeks. It implies a return to something more akin to the lockdown first imposed by the Peronist leader on March 20, though some rules remain relaxed – children in Buenos Aires City will still be allowed to leave their homes for walks at the weekend, for example.
However, most non-essential stores have been shuttered once again, a measure that affects around 370,000 businesses in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. The government has offered financial aid and exemptions to stores for June and July to assist them.
On Wednesday evening, officials said that Argentina has recorded 1,351 fatalities to date and 69,197 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 91 percent of infections in the AMBA region.
"The intention of a stronger quarantine is to stop the contagion. The diagnosis is that there is a situation, not only of growth but of dispersal of the disease in the first cordon of the Conurbano," Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof said on Wednesday.
"We hope that this new phase will have a very decisive impact of flattening or reducing the curve and stopping exponential growth – that is the objective of this much stronger quarantine,” he said, adding stricter controls would be in place “for a limited time."
Officials said Wednesday that the new measures were working well – the Buenos Aires City government said that on Wednesday 107,000 vehicles had used the capital's highways – 30 percent less than the previous day and a 33 percent drop from one week ago.
Sensors from the national Transport Ministry said that some 140,000 vehicles had travelled on the main avenues of the capital, a drop of 19 percent from the previous day and a 25 percent drop on the same day last week.
A total of 27 access points to the capital have also been closed, reducing entry points to 40 for vehicles and 26 for people on foot. Police officers, traffic agents and security forces have all been deployed to checkpoints to stop passengers and inspect their permits.
Only workers in 24 “essential” activities are allowed to use public transport and each passenger must have a unique CUHC (Unique Enabling Circulation Certificate) on their person or on their mobile phone.
Meanwhile, 52,000 people used the Subte underground system in the City, a drop of two percent on the previous day and just five percent of normal pre-pandemic levels.
"The number of permits [for circulation] requested fell because the number of activities allowed fell. We estimate that there will be a drop of 50 percent [in permits granted] and that will impact public transport and mobility in general," said Transport Minister Mario Meoni.