President Alberto Fernández will host the governors of Argentina's provinces at the Olivos presidential residence this afternoon for talks on how to coordinate their efforts to halt the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the country.
According to reports in today's press, talks will focus on whether to order a "total quarantine" of the country, a move that would likely see citizens ordered to remain in their homes for an extended period.
Yesterday, health officials revealed that there are 97 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Argentina, with two fatalities registered to date. A number of provinces have shut their regions off to the rest of country, closing borders and ordering businesses to close.
All 23 provincial leaders will be present at today's meeting, scheduled for 5pm, as will Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larretta. The majority of Fernández's Cabinet of ministers are also expected to attend.
The president will detail the national government's steps to tackle the spread of the virus and analyse potential next steps. He will also seek to secure them that his administration will hope them cope with the decline in economy activity in their regions, with many governors expected to seek federal aid.
At a meeting on Wednesday night with lawmakers, a number of opposition deputies are believed to have asked Fernández to order a "total quarantine." Both sides have committed to working together to tackle the crisis.
According to reports in La Nación, efforts to guarantee the provision of food and other basic supplies are already underway, with the Peronist leader looking at a total closure of national borders, a patrolling of the roads to prevent traffic and the introduction of roadblocks at key entry points to cities.
The newspaper said that Wednesday, April 1, was a potential date under discussion, given that the government has already ordered the shutdown of long-distance transport over the coming long weekend and the suspension of most flights. "The general quarantine would last until after the Easter weekend, which ends on April 12," the newspaper wrote, adding that "the schedule could be brought forward for this weekend, also four days, due to the March 24 holiday."
The government has refused to comments on reports about potential timing.
"If we have to deepen isolation to prevent the epidemic from spreading, we are going to do it," said Lower House Speaker Sergio Massa, at a press conference Wednesday.
Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said earlier on Thursday that the possibility of enforcing a general quarantine for all citizens would be discussed at the meeting later tonight.
He warned that "in the coming days, [next] weeks at the latest" the "social circulation of the virus" would begin.
"It will be one of the issues discussed in the meeting, to which the President summoned the governors. It is a decision that must be taken jointly. After that, the president will evaluate," he added.
At a press conference, the PRO leader said that "restrictive measures have already been taken and have been well followed."
Rodríguez Larreta said it was "very important to make decisions based on data," warning that "with the increase in cases that have been occurring in recent days and the experience that we are collecting from cities where the virus is advanced" authorities expected it to start circulating among society.
As of Wednesday night, five provinces have already closed their borders and issued region-wide shutdowns. Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero are the latest additions to the list, joining Chaco, Jujuy and Mendoza.
Cities are also beginning to close themselves off. Gualeguaychú, in Entre Rios Province, said earlier today that only residents will be allowed to enter its territory, following in the footsteps of El Calafate, in Santa Cruz Province. Other cities across Buenos Aires Province are also believed to be on the verge of shutting themselves off.