As new restrictions kicked in to tackle the Covid-19 second wave, Health Ministry officials announced Friday that Argentina had recorded another new record daily high of 24,130 new infections, underlining the stark challenge that faces the country.
Over the past five days, the country has now registered more than 104,000 confirmed cases. To date, Argentina has almost 2.5 million cases of Covid-19, along with 57,350 fatalities. Friday’s record daily toll was led by Buenos Aires Province – which registered 12,452 new cases – and Buenos Aires City, with 2,601.
Reacting to the crisis, President Alberto Fernández announced late Wednesday that a night-time curfew would be imposed from midnight to 6am for the next three weeks, with rare exceptions granted to essential workers. A host of other measures were also confirmed.
"Circulation is prohibited between 00:00 and 06:00 in the morning of each day. Depending on jurisdiction, the authorities may only extend these hours depending on the specificities of each place," said the president in a message recorded from the Olivos presidential residence, where he is recovering after having been infected.
Argentina is now among the 10 countries with the highest number of new infections worldwide, the director of the Pan American Health Organisation, Carissa Etienne, warned this Wednesday.
"Argentina has entered the second wave. Only in the last seven days cases have increased by 36 percent throughout the country and 53 percent in the AMBA (Buenos Aires metropolitan area) region," said Fernández on Wednesday, who said he was "concerned about social relaxation, contradicting all the [government’s] protocols."
"Just as a year ago I asked you to stay at home while we improved an abandoned health system, today I ask you to pay the utmost attention to health care duties and protocols. By reinforcing that care we will be able to advance better in the vaccination process which is underway," said the president.
The government also decided to suspend group, end-of-year study or tourist trips throughout the country. The borders have already been closed to foreign tourism since December.
In addition, in large cities, social activities in private homes and meetings in public outdoor spaces of more than 20 people are prohibited. Games, discos and nightclubs will be closed for the moment, as well as sports and recreational practices in closed places where more than 10 people participate.
Bars and restaurants must now close at 11pm, one hour before a ban on movement kicks in.
"These care measures will be in effect from midnight this Friday, April 9 until April 30," said the president.
For the moment, schools will be kept open, with transport in the AMBA region reserved solely for essential workers and members of the educational community.
“In these months we want to take care of health, take care of economic recovery and take care of the presence in schools as much as possible,” said Fernández.
As of Friday, 6,609,996 vaccine doses have been distributed throughout the country, of which 4,956,023 people have already been inoculated. Of that total, 4,244,964 people received a single dose, while 711,059 have completed the process, receiving two doses.
Argentina has been vaccinating its population by priority groups, with healthcare workers and the elderly prioritised, as well as teachers, police and at-risk groups.
Speaking in a radio interview on Friday, the president said that the new restrictions would be “insufficient if people are not aware of the size of the problem."
"There is a part of this that is in the hands of all of us, because there is no state in the world that can control the behaviour of each of its citizens,” he said. “There is no way to do it and we have to resort to social conscience and that the risk is understood.”
According to the new provisions, which came into effect Friday, the following measures will be applied in the Federal Capital, suburbs Buenos Aires and other districts with high epidemiological risk due to Covid-19:
– Social activities are suspended in private homes.
– Social gatherings in public outdoor spaces with more than 20 people are suspended.
– Casino, bingos, nightclubs or any party room activities are suspended.
– The recreational practice of any sport in closed places where more than 10 people participate is suspended.
– Bars and restaurants are closed at 11pm.
– Circulation is prohibited between midnight and 06am in the morning on each day. Depending on the jurisdiction, the authorities may only extend these hours depending on the specific circumstances of each place.
– In the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA), only workers considered essential, the entire educational community and those who have already been expressly authorised may use public transport.
– Group trips by graduates, study and tourist groups are suspended throughout the country.
– These measures will be in effect from midnight Friday, April 9 to Friday, April 30.
– TIMES with agencies