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ARGENTINA | 07-04-2020 08:57

Government plans to ease lockdown with limited reopening of banks

Isolation measures to tackle the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic will be lifted to allow branches to offer limited services, Bloomberg reports.

The government plans to begin easing Argentina's nationwide lockdown by allowing banks to open branches for limited services as from Monday.

Isolation measures to tackle the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic will be lifted to allow branches to offer limited services, according to a statement that will be released by the Central Bank, most likely today, Bloomberg reported Tuesday morning.

Banking services will be available to individuals who previously notify banks of their attention, with certain days set aside for groups of individuals, who will be chosen by the combination of numbers used on their DNI national identification card. Other factors, such as an individual's employer, tax code or CUIT may also be used.

Banks have been closed since President Alberto Fernández declared a nationwide lockdown on March 20, though they reopened temporarily over the weekend to assist retirees and citizens who receive social security benefits. However, long queues were seen outside branches, as customers formed long lines that will do nothing to halt the advance of the Covid-19 coronavirus. The government had to extend temporary opening hours into the beginning of their week to cope with demand.

Government officials are aware that the reopening of the financial system will require a delicate balance. They were widely criticised last week fro the long queues, as clients largely ignored social distancing protocols.

The economy, which is already mired in recession, is facing a deeper contraction in 2020 as it seeks to restructure its debt. Goldman Sachs Group Inc forecasts that the region's second-largest economy will contract 5.4 percent this year, while inflation is at 50 percent and unemployment remains high. The government wants to avoid a default and renegotiate an external debt of almost US$69 billion with creditors.

Fernández said Monday evening that the nationwide quarantine would not end after April 13, but that it would become "ore flexible."

"All the effort that was made" to avoid contagion in recent weeks "should not be lost," the Peronist leader told TN.

"The quarantine is going to continue, what we are going to do [after April 13] is to make it more flexible," he said.


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