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ARGENTINA | 24-03-2020 12:03

Coronavirus in Argentina: Worst yet to come, quarantine may be extended

Extension of nationwide lockdown is "a possibility" admits President Fernández, as experts warn the number of confirmed cases will double or treble in the coming weeks as testing is decentralised.

Experts warn that Covid-19 contagion in Argentina could be doubled or trebled in the weeks to come – and that ongoing mandatory quarantine for all citizens may be extended for an extended period.

An extension of the isolation period is “a possibility," according to President Alberto Fernández. 

With over 300 people infected with the novel coronavirus nationwide, Argentina started this week already four days into a total quarantine which seeks to diminish the impact of a massive contagion on the health system. Yet according to government sources, quoted by the Italian news agency Ansa in a report over the weekend, “the worst is yet to come.”

"We cannot stop the pandemic but what we can do is to keep the spread of cases at levels which the local health system can handle. One thing is to open up the gates of hell and another very different thing is to be inside,” an epidemiologist who forms part of the team advising President Fernández told Ansa.

Their report assures that public health centres are expecting an “explosion of cases” in the coming days.

By next week "we could be talking about over 1,000 positive [tests for the virus],” specialists agree.

Quarantine extension?

To prevent a continuous increase in numbers, the government is thinking of extending the period of total quarantine, sources say. Although President Fernández has ruled out the need to decree a state of siege.

“Not necessary,” he told Radio Rivadavia while recognising that extending compulsory isolation is a “possibility.”

“I want people to know that there’s a president who’s fed up with the wise guys and the idiots. The wise guys who abuse the people and complacent fools who, without knowing it, place people’s lives at risk,” he highlighted during the interview, explaining that for all practical purposes a state of siege and the total lockdown implemented via last Friday’s emergency decree “are the same thing.”

“The decree gives me all the tools for a lockdown and for having the police arrest people so that they can face justice," he indicated.

As for the period of preventive and compulsory quarantine lasting until March 31, the president affirmed that an extension "is possibility" and nor "would his hand tremble" when it came to taking measures seeking to preserve the health of Argentines against the spread of the Covid-19 virus.


Furthermore, he admitted that the advance of coronavirus is underestimated due to the limitations of testing capacity.

The president has vowed to proceed with a descentralisation of check-ups. Today the Instituto de Microbiología Doctor Carlos Malbrán is the only place testing for Covid-19 with over 100 analyses daily, but as from next week there will be other places, thus multiplying the number of positive cases.

The new testing centres will be in Buenos Aires (City and Province), Córdoba, Santa Fe, Chaco and Tierra del Fuego with many cases expected in the latter following the arrival of international cruisers a few days ago.

Malbrán today has around 3,000 reagents to detect the coronavirus pandemic with a further 12,000 by Wednesday and 50,000 throughout Argentina by next week.

The number of infected people has increased to 300, with four deaths to date, the Health Ministry reported Monday.


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