Marking a major breakthrough in the coronavirus pandemic, Argentina’s government has ended the compulsory use of facemasks (or barbijos) in enclosed spaces, schools and public transport.
The decision, announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning, comes two-and-a-half years after the government ordered the start of a social, preventive and mandatory isolation (ASPO) period to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Via a decree published in the Official Gazette, Health Minister Carla Vizzotti said that the decision had been taken “in the context of a population with high vaccination coverage” that the official said "has managed to considerably reduce the incidence of serious illness and mortality.”
The health portfolio concluded that “SARS-CoV-2 has become a seasonal circulation virus," which means that the use of the mask is only reserved for "particular scenarios."
However, Vizzotti stressed in the announcement that Argentina’s regional governments (23 provinces and the autonomous City of Buenos Aires) will have autonomy over the final decision on whether to use facemasks or not, depending on the evolution of its epidemiological situation.
The decree also said that the National Health Ministry continued to recommend the use of face masks to protect against Covid-19 in indoor spaces. Among other "general prevention measures," health officials also suggested that enclosed spaces remain well ventilated, that “adequate and frequent hand hygiene” is practised by all and that citizens showing symptoms of Covid-19 avoid contact with other people, including skipping “work, social and educational activities, public places and the use of transport.”
Since Argentina began its national vaccination campaign, more than 103 million Covid-19 shots have been applied, with 82.5 percent of the general population now considered to be fully vaccinated (two doses). Some 46.7 percent have received at least one booster dose in addition, rising to 73.5 percent for those aged over 60.
Since the arrival of Covid-19 in the country back in March 2020, more than 9.7 million cases have been recorded by health authorities, along with 129,855 fatalities.
From September 11 to 18, 6,175 new cases were registered with local health authorities nationwide.