President Alberto Fernández confirmed Friday that residents in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) will see a loosening of coronavirus restrictions as from next week.
Speaking in a national address, he said those living in the region would move from the “isolation” stage to one of “social distancing,” starting Monday.
Fernández said that cases in the AMBA region had “levelled,” providing “tranquility” to the authorities. Seeking to define it more clearly, he said the new rules equated to "basically circulating without [prior] authorisation."
"We managed to treat the cases and that gives us relative peace of mind, because if the health guidelines are met, it can help us achieve the objectives we are looking for," said Fernández.
In a 21-minute message recorded at the Olivos presidential residence, the Peronist leader confirmed that the AMBA region – which includes the capital and its heavily populated periphery – would officially exit Social, Preventive and Mandatory Isolation (ASPO) and move into a new phase of Social, Preventive and Obligatory Distancing (DISPO).
“It is time for the AMBA [region] to move to a stage of preventive, mandatory and social distancing," after a drop in the number of infections over the last eight weeks, he said, though he confirmed that the use of public transport would remain limited only to essential workers.
However, he also revealed that a number of departments in 10 provinces nationwide would remain in the “isolation” phase, given that the virus remains potent in those regions.
Fernández warned that the battle against Covid-19 is “far” from over and called for citizens to continue respecting the rules in place to tackle the spread of the virus, appealing for “collective responsibility.”
Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, speaking after the president, confirmed that schools will be able to welcome back students in all grades as from Monday, but only in limited circumstances with strict sanitary controls.
He also revealed that, according to government data, an estimated 14 percent of residents in the capital “have already had the disease.”
Three potential vaccines
In his address, Fernández also talked up Argentina’s efforts to “end the virus,” revealing that the country could have access to at least three vaccines by the beginning of next year.
Fernández also confirmed that he had spoken earlier in the day with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the development of the Sputnik V vaccine, which Argentina has agreed to purchase. The Argentine leader said that both nations had made “important steps” to ensure the treatment would arrive in the country as soon as it receives approval from the relevant health authorities.
"We want Argentines to be able to count on a vaccine as quickly as possible," said Fernández.
"We could cover 10 million people with two doses, if all goes well, from the end of December," he added, revealing that plans for a mass vaccination programme were already underway.
Sputnik V, which involves the taking of two doses within 21 days, is currently in Phase III of clinical trials.
Fernández explained that Argentina is still in talks with other pharmaceutical firms whose vaccines are also in Phase III of testing.
"We could vaccinate 750,000 people with the Pfizer vaccine – which could be in Argentina by December – and we could have the AstraZeneca and Oxford [University] vaccine as of March," he said.
He also noted that "one of the Chinese vaccines” was also a possibility.