Argentina will extend its nationwide coronavirus lockdown until May 24, President Alberto Fernández announced Friday night.
The decision means South America’s second-largest nation will spend at least two months in quarantine, one of the strictest approaches in the region.
“I’m going to take care of the people before anything else,” the president said at a press conference at the Olivos presidential residence in Olivos. “We’re achieving the objectives but we haven’t won the battle yet”
As of Friday, Argentina had 5,371 confirmed cases and 285 deaths, a considerably lower rate than neighbouring Brazil, which has seen deaths by the hundreds in recent days.
Fernández implemented the lockdown on March 20 and has acknowledged there will be economic consequences. Argentina’s economy will shrink seven percent this year after contracting in 2018 and 2019, according to the Central Bank’s monthly survey published Friday.
Argentina’s lockdown will now overlap with a key deadline in the government’s debt restructuring. If the government doesn’t reach an agreement with bondholders to restructure $US65 billion in debt by May 22, Argentina will default.
The government’s current offer to bondholders expired Friday and Economy Minister Martín Guzáan is expected to announce next steps in a press conference Saturday.