The government has ordered the closure of all borders from midnight Thursday until Tuesday, March 31, shutting off all access to the country to both citizens and visitors in a bid to halt the advance of the coronavirus outbreak.
The move tightens the measures President Alberto Fernández put in place in mid-March, when he closed the nation to all foreign non-residents. Argentines and foreign residents, however, had still been allowed to return.
Officials said a decree would be published in the Official Gazette on Friday morning and that it will contain only very strict exceptions. It would affect "persons residing in the country and Argentines and Argentines residing abroad."
A previous decree, issued March 16, has already prohibited "foreigners not resident in the country" from entering.
To date, the country has suffered 12 fatalities and confirmed 589 individuals as having been infected with Covid-19.
Speaking Thursday, Defence Minister Agustín Rossi said the government had ordered the closure of all the country's air, land and maritime borders, effective from the first minute of Friday.
"There is a decree of necessity and urgency (DNU) that will be published and details that from tomorrow the borders of Argentina will be closed absolutely," he said.
Rossi said that the shutdown of the air system had already been established, but now the block was to be extended to land and sea crossings as well.
The minister clarified that "we are going to regulate" the exceptions and coordinate the return of Argentines or Argentine residents who remain abroad.
Exemptions will be granted to those involved in the "transfer of merchandise for international trade operations" and those who transport cargo, as well as pilots, captains and crew on ships and aircraft. Individuals "affected by the operation of flights and medical transfers" are also reportedly exempt.
Rossi argued that President Alberto Fernández was closing loopholes with the move, as he had already blocked travellers from entering Argentina.
He added that "the only possible measure" to protect against the coronavirus is "isolation, not having social contact."
"We look at what is happening around the world and we make decisions based on countries that have had better results, those that have been more successful with drastic and forceful measures," he said.
According to the decree, the new measures "are the essential, reasonable and proportionate in relation to the threat and health risk facing the country."
"The day we said let's put the quarantine [in place], we did it looking at the experiences of other countries," Fernández said in an interview on Thursday with TV Pública. "If we do not stop the possibility of contagion from the beginning, as this is exponential, there comes a point that we will not be able to attend to [everyone]."
Officials said citizens or permanent residents concerned about the closure who remain abroad should contact their local Argentine consulate or embassy for more information.