The nationwide lockdown that President Alberto Fernández decreed on Thursday, March 19, to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Argentina will be extended until at least Sunday, April 12, sources inside Casa Rosada have confirmed to Perfil.
However, the "preventative and obligatory" period of social isolation could last until May, if the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases soars and the infection curve refuse to flatten.
Restrictions on movement, which at present are set to end on Tuesday, March 31, could also be eased in some provinces that have not presented confirmed cases, or in regions that have managed to control the outbreak, government sources told Perfil.
President Fernández has himself hinted at the possibility – which sources say the government already considers inevitable – of extending the quarantine.
"If necessary, the quarantine will be extended. In principle, it will last until next Tuesday, but the number of infections will continue to grow," he declared on Wednesday in an interview with Telefe's Cortá por Lozano show.
Argentina registered its first case of the novel coronavirus on March 3, and to date has 502 infections with eight confirmed deaths, according to figures from the Health Ministry.
Earlier this week, government officials confirmed that the first cases of "community circulation" had been registered – that is, people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and cannot trace direct contact with someone previously infected who has travelled outside the country.
The Health Ministry, led by Dr Ginés González García, estimates that cases will peak in Argentina between late April and early May, partly due to the virus' incubation period of between two and 14 days, and partly due to delays in carrying out studies. This means that the confirmed cases will increase during the first stage of quarantine, which will serve as a "trial period" to evaluate how the measure is functioning.
The government has yet to conclude exactly how the restrictions on movement and economic measures will affect the recession, though their impact will be substantial, given the almost total stop of activity.
Fernández said this week that repatriation flights for Argentines who are still abroad are currently suspended, as the government seeks to slow the spread of the virus.
"We have decided not to admit any more people, so I have instructed the foreign minister [Felipe Solá] to help with resources for those who are abroad until we can sort this out,” he said.
“We are trying to bring only those over 65, because they are the most at risk. Those who are left out will have to wait for a time to return," the head of state said Wednesday.
The Peronist leader also said his government would seek to help those affected, but warned he would prioritise the nation's health over its economy.
"Economic conflicts are being generated, but when you govern you have to face dilemmas and the option was to take care of the economy or life – I chose to take care of the life and health of the Argentine people," he declared.