President Alberto Fernández on Friday announced an extension of Argentina’s coronavirus quarantine for the next three weeks, starting Monday and running until October 11, with tighter enforcement in some inland provinces which are witnessing a worrying increase in cases.
Speaking at an official event, the Peronist leader said that further details would be explained in a decree due later in the day.
“However much we wish to return to normal, the pandemic is far from being overcome,” he said, adding that he had recently spoken to several provincial governors to stop the spread of the virus.
Hours after he spoke, the Health Ministry confirmed an additional 11,945 new cases of Covid-19 had been recorded over the preceding 24 hours, lifting the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 613,658. Another 197 fatalities were registered over the same period, lifting the death toll to 12,656.
The number of infections has increased in recent weeks, with daily tallies running over 10,000. The surge comes as the population shows a growing fatigue with the lockdown, which completes half a year tomorrow. Violations of restrictions are also on the rise.
The Presidency issued an audio message on social networks pointing out that Covid-19 cases are "continuing to increase throughout the Americas” and warning that “the citizenry is starting to relax.” The message recalled that the pandemic was initially concentrated in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) – where the problem has stabilised albeit at a high level) – but now almost half the new cases are in inland provinces as against seven percent at the outset.
Jujuy, Mendoza, Río Negro, Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego, Santa Fe, La Rioja, Tucumán, Salta, Neuquén and Córdoba are the provinces where the most cases have accumulated in the last fortnight and in eight of them the hospitals and health system are reportedly on the brink of collapse.
Meanwhile, in opposition-controlled capital, Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced the relaxation of some lockdown measures starting next week, including religious services with congregations of no more than 20 people strictly heeding social distancing, construction works of over 5,000 square metres or within three months of completion and extending open-air restaurant and café services beyond pavements. Non-urgent medical attention at hospitals is also authorised as from Monday.
The City initiatives have been questioned by the national health authorities. Meanwhile, Buenos Aires Province is only clearing industrial activities.
While there has generally been a reopening of the commercial and industrial sectors in Argentina, there are no regular flights while movement between provincial and municipal jurisdictions is often restricted, there are no school classes in almost the country and nor is there football with museums and nightclubs etc. remaining closed. Borders remain closed, with limited exceptions.