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ARGENTINA | 12-03-2020 17:02

Government takes measures to halt spread of coronavirus

President Alberto Fernández calls on the population to take precautions, asking for "responsibility" in the face of "easily transmitted" Covid-19 virus.

The government issued a decree on Thursday  saying that the granting of visas will be immediately suspended for foreigners from a number of nations, including the entirety of the European Union, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Decree 1644/2020, published today in the Official Gazette, is part of the government's attempt to tackle the spread of the infectious disease, which is prompting global havoc. Visas would be suspended for foreigners from China, Iran, United States, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, European Union states and nations that make up the Schengen area.

The decree said that "the rapid worldwide spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) has motivated the National Migrations Office to take measures related to the prevention of the spread of the virus" in Argentina. As a result, the government has decided to suspend "temporarily the processing of applications for admission as 'a temporary resident' for foreigners "from countries with advanced coronavirus."

The decree is relevant for "migrant workers, rentiers, pensioners, investors, scientists and specialised personnel, athletes, artists, representatives from officially recognised religions, academics and students." as well as those seeking to carry out "paid or unpaid tasks in the scientific, professional, technical, religious or artistic fields."

Argentina, along with Colombia and Peru, said yesterday that travellers from China, Italy, Spain and France would be isolated on arrival. The government also announced a two-week isolation period for people arriving from Japan, South Korea and the United States. 

A decree confirming that should be issued later today or early Friday, officials said. According to Noticias Argentinas, it will enforce "a 15-day quarantine for
people arriving in Argentina from countries with circulation of the pandemic."

In a radio interview with Radio Mitre, President Alberto Fernández called on the population to take precautions, asking for "responsibility."

"The coronavirus is easily transmitted and we do not know how far it can go, so we are doing everything necessary to minimise risk, but the risk is not eliminable," said Fernández.

"The situation is under control," he added.

Legal and Technical Secretary to the Presidency, Vilma Ibarra, said Wednesday evening that a decree regarding prevention and control of the coronavirus – which would include details about a mandatory quarantine period for people who involve "suspected or confirmed cases" who had arrived from outside the country and have contact with affected areas – would be issued promptly.

She also observed, in a conversation with C5N, that Argentina's Criminal Code contained punishments for those who promote the spread of a disease or disobey orders and provisions put in place by the State.

Through the C5N channel, the official also stressed that there is no direct ban on public shows but that the Ministry of Health is empowered to "measure day by day how the epidemic develops"

Aerolíneas cancellations

Aerolíneas Argentinas said Thursday it was cancelling more flights to Rome, Madrid, New York, Miami and Orlando due to the global health situation, adding to a host of cancellations issued two days ago.

The firm also said it had set up a WhatsApp number to serve passengers with reservations to or from China, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Israel and the United States. Passengers can message or call +54 9 1149404798 and must specify their reservation code, destination and date of travel, in order to speed up service.

The airline's officials who serve passengers overseas are available to serve all Argentines who wish to modify reservations in order to return home, it added.

CONMEBOL seeks postponements

On Wednesday, the region's governing football body CONMEBOL iasked FIFA to suspend the beginning of World Cup qualifiers scheduled for the end of March due to fears with the spread of the coronavirus.

CONMEBOL published on Wednesday a letter it sent with the request to the sport's governing body in the name of members Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. FIFA is yet to reply.

The letter said the outbreak could affect South American national teams that have members in Europe for they could be put in quarantine, which would stop them from playing.

– TIMES/NA/AP

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