Argentines left their homes in droves as banks reopened their branches on Friday, forming long lines that will do nothing to halt the advance of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
"It is an extraordinary and very complex situation. Perhaps there are many people who have experience of other crises and were afraid they would not arrive on time[ to go in]. We try to make it as easy as possible. We didn't expect such a large turnout," Alejandro Vanoli, the head of the ANSES social security administration, told the TN news channel.
People were crowded in front of banks from the early hours of the morning across the country, with many urgently seeking cash, despite the fact that the institutions will remain open in the next few days.
Thousands of pensioners and citizens who receive government assistance lined up outside banks to take out their monthly payments. Branches, which have been closed since a nationwide lockdown began March 20, reopened Friday.
In addition to those, there were also individuals seeking to take out last month's cash, those who needed to withdraw using their debit card to avoid future lines, and new recipients of subsidies, explained Vanoli.
Faced with the crowds that were repeated in different parts of the country, Central Bank authorities announced that banks would also open this Saturday and Sunday, though they later introduced rules – using the numbers on a citizens' DNI identification cards – so limited amounts of people can go each day.
The long lines underscored some of the strains created by the coronavirus pandemic in a country in which less than half of the population has a bank account.
“We’re asking that only pensioners with an urgent need go to the banks,” said Vanoli, in an interview with local TV. “We’re calling for those who can resolve their needs online to use those channels.”
Argentina was one of the first countries in the region to go ona full lockdown, which the president has now been extended until April 12.
Argentina has more than 1,300 confirmed cases of the virus and at least 42 deaths.