President Alberto Fernández, once again flanked by Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta at the Olivos presidential residence, announced yesterday that the government would extend the mandatory lockdown in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) until August 16 amid a record surge in Covid-19 cases and fatalities.
Health Ministry officials announced 5,929 new cases and 77 fatalities on Friday.
"Until August 16 we are going to keep things as they are," Fernández said in a televised speech, saying officials had decided to halt further liberalisation measures in a bid to protect the health system from being overloaded.
"In the past days it can be noted that the virus is circulating more and more infections are detected. All this generates hospitalisations and unfortunately deaths," said Fernández.
The mandatory quarantine will continue under the same terms, government officials briefed, after all three leaders agreed not to return to tighter restrictions and to instead “consolidate the phase.” The lockdown had been due to expire on Sunday.
At print time, there were more than 1,000 people hospitalised in intensive care units (ICUs) in Argentina, with bed occupancy rates at 55.3 percent nationwide and 65.5 percent in AMBA region.
Given these statistics, Kicillof warned that "if the numbers do not drop, it will be necessary to go to a much stricter quarantine, because the beds [in hospitals] are filling up."
The president once again called on citizens to be responsible, given the increasing number of citizens that are leaving their homes on a regular basis.
“The big problem that we have had in the last 15 days is that we relaxed. We felt that it was contained, but it is not – it is far from being contained” he said, calling on the younger sections of society to take responsibility for the elderly.
He also made reference to so-called ‘quarantine parties,’ describing them as “silly” and reminding citizens that mass gatherings were banned.
Fernández also vowed to maintain social support programmes and subsidies for the most vulnerable sectors of society, guaranteeing that emergency family income payments and wage subsidies for private companies would be continued.
Argentina registered a record 6,377 infections and 153 deaths in just 24 hours on Thursday, the day prior to the presidential announcement.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 191,000 confirmed cases have now been recorded with 3,543 deaths. The country has seen a dramatic surge in July – at the turn of the month, the tally stood at 64,517 infections and 1,307 deaths.
While 90 percent of new cases continue to be recorded in the capital and its heavily populated periphery, government officials warned this week that new outbreaks are being reported in most provinces.
"I view the situation with great concern, we have made a great effort in the sense that we do not have to regret more victims, but we have to stand firm a little because this is not working," Fernández said in a radio interview on Thursday.
He added that "it is possible that the curve will go down again or that it will go up again, and that has to do with people on the streets, with people meeting, with people having a coffee or sharing an asado."
Friday’s announcement came after a three-hour meeting with experts, who according to reports told the president to “consolidate” and be “cautious with re-openings.” Most supported the “continuity of the quarantine,” sources told Perfil.
Under the scheme announced two weeks ago, the mandatory social isolation measures put in place to tackle the spread of Covid-19 were due to be relaxed from next week. Those plans have now been put on hold, as the government seeks to put the onus on individuals to be responsible and take care, rather than return to a strict lockdown.
In addition to essential services, local neighbourhood businesses, including hairdressers, have been allowed to re-open, while some independent professionals, such as lawyers, also received authorisation to return to work.
School classes, large events and gatherings and sporting events are still prohibited. The use of public transport is only for essential workers.