President Alberto Fernández has announced a new set of coronavirus restrictions starting tomorrow (Thursday 8 April) as Argentina struggles to deal with a Covid-19 second wave.
The measures will enter into force with the publication of a new emergency decree on Thursday.
Among the headline takeaways is the decision to introduce a three-week nighttime curfew. The measures come after a second consecutive day of record coronavirus infections – more than 22,000 on Wednesday.
The curfew will enter into force on Friday and apply from midnight to 6am every day until April 30, Fernández said in a message recorded at his official residence, where he is self-isolating after being infected with the virus himself.
It will be in force in the country's highest risk areas, mainly the urban centres, the president said. Bars and restaurants will close at 11pm.
Addressing the public from the Presidential residence in Olivos, President Fernández said that “relaxed socialising continued to a large extent” over Easter although “the pandemic continues [and] is returning with more rigour.”
He argued that “we must take new measures of care. It’s key that we agree on what our priorities are in the second wave. We want to take care of health, economic recovery and face-to-face presence in schools.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Health Ministry said a record 22,039 new infections had been reported in the preceding 24 hours – up from the previous record of 20,870 the day before.
More than 13,500 of the latest cases were reported in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) – home to a third of Argentina's population of 45 million.
To date, some 4.5 million citizens have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and just over 700,000 both doses.
The Pan American Health Organisation said last week that Argentina is one of the 10 countries with the most new infections worldwide.
The country's borders have been closed since December, and group meetings in private homes are forbidden in the big cities. Dance halls and gyms are also closed.
Of the eight new measures announced by Fernández, one will be applied nationwide and another just to AMBA. The remaining six will apply only to zones considered at high sanitary risk and all measures will be in place until at least April 30.
The new decree will mean the whole country faces a suspension of tourist trips, including the commonly taken end-of-term holidays taken by school leavers.
In the parts of the country considered at high epidemiological and sanitary risk, social activities in private residences have been suspended, along with gatherings of more than 20 people in public spaces including those outside. Recreational sporting events of more than 10 people in closed spaces are also banned.
Casinos, bingos, nightclubs and other party venues have been temporarily closed in high-risk zones, and bars and restaurants must close to the public from 11pm. Circulation of citizens is prohibited between 12am and 6am, although authorities in each jurisdiction are permitted to extend these hours to the needs of the specific place.
The government also specified an additional measure for AMBA, which includes Buenos Aires City. Under this new rule, public transport can only be used by essential workers including teaching staff and a list of others who are specifically authorised.
According to the head of state, “what happens in the second wave is going to depend on the measure that we implement, of the controls in each district and the responsibility of every individual.”
He concluded: "As president of the nation I have the political responsibility of taking the reins and continuing to lead the country" adding "I ask you to accompany me in this effort. We are going to double the care [we take] as well as vaccination in the coming months."