President Alberto Fernández issued another plea to personal responsibility on Friday as he confirmed his government would extend existing lockdown measures nationwide until September 20.
Yet in a classic case of mixed messaging, officials also said that certain measures – such as restrictions on social gatherings and restaurants in Buenos Aires City – would be eased.
In a five-minute video released via social networks on Friday, Fernández drew attention to rising numbers of infections and said he was extending the period of mandatory isolation throughout the country. It was the first time that the president, who spoke in Santa Fe at an event earlier in the day, has extended measures without an accompanying press conference since the pandemic began.
“Today personal responsibility, which has a collective impact, is more necessary than ever," the president said in an appeal to citizens.
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The announcement came barely half an hour after officials confirmed that more than 10,000 new infections had been recorded for a third straight day.
The Health Ministry’s regular update said that 11,717 confirmed cases had been recorded over the last 24 hours, lifting the cumulative toll to 392,009.
Officials also said that 222 fatalities had been recorded over the same period, lifting the death toll to 8,271.
The Peronist leader said this new phase of social isolation would last for just over four weeks, longer than the usual two-week extension.
However, some minor changes to existing rules were announced, despite the recent surge in cases that has seen Argentina record repeated daily high infection numbers.
Social gatherings for up to 10 people, if held outdoors, will now be allowed nationwide, the president confirmed.
"We are going to authorise meetings of up to 10 people in the open air, keeping the distance, throughout the country. It will be implemented in each jurisdiction,” said Fernández, who highlighted that the situation was worsening in several provinces outside of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA).
"The problem is no longer just AMBA, it is throughout the country. A month and a half ago 93 percent of the cases were in the metropolitan area. Now the interior provinces represent 37 percent of cases," he said, addressing the matter.
"Cases, deaths and affected areas in America are on the rise," he added.
Fernández asked citizens not to be careless in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and stressed that "the problem is not only with the AMBA." Now "it belongs to the whole country," he said, picking out a surge of infections in the provinces of Jujuy and Mendoza.
Fernández said the crisis could be overcome, but that it would require “great great social and political unity.” the vast majority of society is aware of the risks that Covid-19 implies."
"If we neglect ourselves, there is no health system that can endure it," the president warned, concluding: "Let's continue taking care of ourselves and working together to save lives."
Full details of the extension were still to be published at print time, though it was clear that provinces outside the metropolitan area may loosen or tighten measures depending on their infection rate – some, such as San Juan Province, have returned to stricter lockdowns after witnessing a rise in infections.
For example, minutes before the president spoke, Buenos Aires City Horacio Rodríguez Larreta had confirmed that restaurants in the capital would be allowed to seat and serve up to four customers at tables stationed outside their establishments, while waiters would be allowed to return to work.
The City mayor also confirmed that his government was seeking approval "as soon as possible" to allow some school students to return to school, especially those who have lost contact with their teachers during the quarantine.
Construction workers will also be allowed to return to work, Rodríguez Larreta said.