President Alberto Fernández said Friday that only two cities in Argentina, both in the south of the country will remain under strict isolation measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19, as he extended existing social distancing measures for the rest of the country.
"We are entering a new stage [of measures]," the Peronist leader explained in a video message issued from the Casa Rosada, which was greatly overshadowed by the passing of late football legend Diego Maradona.
As indicated "there are only two cities [still] in a situation of sanitary isolation: Bariloche [in Río Negro Province] and Puerto Deseado [Santa Cruz Province]. The rest of Argentina remains under [social] distancing until December 20."
Up until last week, there were 10 provinces nationwide that had regions with mandatory isolation orders, according to measures put in place at the beginning of November.
In Argentina, "preventive social distancing" equates to the mandatory use of face masks by all citizens except children aged under six, maintaining a distance of at least two metres between individuals, the prohibition of large shows, concerts and sporting events, and gatherings of more than 10 people in closed places, among other restrictions.
The use of public transportation will also remain restricted to essential workers, Fernández added.
"The pandemic is far from having been eradicated, we have not overcome it," said the Peronist leader, predicting that "it is very possible that Latin America and Argentina will have to face a second wave in the Autumn."
On Friday, the Health Ministry reported 7,846 new cases of Covid-19 and 275 deaths in the last 24 hours. To date, Argentina has recorded more than 1.4 million confirmed cases and just over 38,000 fatalities.
Fernández also trailed the potential arrival of a vaccine, with the government seeking a mass roll-out as soon as possible.
"We are in negotiations with [vaccine developers] Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Oxford, and they would be available in Argentina in March. And we are working at full steam with the Russian Federation, trying to have the Sputnik vaccine, so that between January and February we can vaccinate around 10 million of Argentines," said the president, who said around "20,000 volunteers" would be needed to assist the vaccination scheme.
The president predicted that "with a lot of effort Argentina can vaccinate between 4.5 and 5 million people per month."
He also confirmed that the vaccine "will be free and not mandatory."
Fernández also indicated that the number of individuals hospitalised and sent to intensive care units (ICUs) was continuing to fall. The total number of patients occupying ICU beds is 4,120, with bed occupancy at 56.2 percent nationwide, the Health Ministry confirmed as of Friday.