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ARGENTINA | 19-03-2020 14:55

City's emergency services ask porteños to stay at home

Head of capital's emergency services asks porteños to stay at home and avoid social contact, as they struggle to deal with coronavirus outbreak.

The head of the emergency services in Buenos Aires City has pleaded with porteños, asking them to stay home to prevent the spread o the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are worried, like all Argentines. We are prepared, but the most important thing is that people stay at home. The solidarity of the people is what we need at this time. That the Argentine understands that he has to stay at home to avoid what is social contact. We don't want that spread," Alberto Crescenti, director of the SAME (Sistema de Atención Médica de Emergencias, SAME) emergency service, told AFP in an interview.

With 97 confirmed cases of infected people throughout Argentina, three of whom have died, SAME ambulances have so far transferred a total of 235 suspected Covid-19 patients to the capital, Crescenti said.

"The first line is armed. We ask you to please stay in your homes, wash your hands, constantly clean your counter, your workplace with bleach dilution. But stay in your homes. Quarantine does not mean holidays: you have to stay in the house," he insisted.

On Monday, Argentina decreed a two-week suspension of classes in schools and universities, the closing of its borders, and a halt to football tournaments and shows.

In addition, it recommended that companies allow employees to work remotely and that leave be granted to employees aged over 60 or those suffering from chronic illnesses.

Officials have also began to limit permitted occupancy on public transportation, and for this long weekend that will end on Tuesday, it eliminated medium- and long-distance flights, trains and buses, to discourage domestic travel.

Emergency hospitals

City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, announced on Friday measures to strengthen the healthcare system in the capital, with the incorporation of 400 additional nurses, 70 doctors and 50 respiratory kinesiologists.

In addition, there will be 150 intensive care beds, 400 for intermediate level hospitalisation and 100 respirators.

"The increase in cases that has been occurring in recent days and the experience we are gathering from the cities where the virus is advancing indicates that we could be, in the next few days or weeks at the latest, entering the stage of social circulation of the virus," the mayor warned.

"Social circulation" refers to the spread of Covid-19 among people who have had no direct or indirect contact with the foreigner.

SAME has about 1,300 people, including doctors, radio operators, and ambulance drivers in a network with the City's government hospitals.

According to the World Health Organisation, Argentina has five hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants, the second-highest rate in the region after Cuba.

President Alberto Fernández announced this week that eight modular emergency hospitals will be built. "We have to take advantage of every minute to be better prepared," he said.

Buenos Aires City and its outskirts are home to some 15 million people. Around 70 percent of confirmed cases in Argentina are concentrated in the area.

- TIMES/AFP

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