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ARGENTINA | 17-03-2020 08:31

New rules for remote working introduced in bid to slow virus

Officials unveil a new battery of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including exempting public and private employees from "non-essential sectors" and parents of schoolchildren from travelling to their workplace.

The government announced a new battery of measures on Monday evening to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including exempting public and private employees from "non-essential sectors" and parents of schoolchildren from travelling to their workplace.

The steps were unveiled after a meeting of the government's 'Economic and Social Cabinet that lasted five hours, which President Alberto Fernández attended.

"Those who are parents of school-age children, who are without classes [as from this Monday], and others who integrate at-risk groups, will be released from having to go to their workplace," Labour Minister Claudio Moroni, at a press conference.

The new rules for home-working apply to all employees in "non-essential services," those with pre-existing illnesses and those aged over 60 years of age.

Workers "must set the conditions with their employer to be able to do so," Moroni said, however, placing the emphasis on the employer.

In Argentina there are some nine million registered workers and another six million who work under informal terms, without social security or labour insurance, who are not declared with the State.

The announcement came after another another tense day in which the government added Brazil and Chile to its list of "at rick" or "affected" countries list. The neighbouring countries join China, South Korea, Iran, the United States, Japan and Europe in being considered as at risk areas.

Those who arrive from such nations are ordered to adopt a mandatory 14-day quarantine period in their places of residence. Argentina's borders are currently closed to all foreigners for two weeks, beginning as of Sunday.

Sparking headlines across the country, migration officials forced two US citizens to leave the Sheraton Hotel in the capital on Monday, where they had violated the terms of mandatory quarantine. 

In total, some 250 foreigners have been expelled from the country since measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus were tightened, government officials said.

Yesterday was the first day of two weeks in which some eight million students in Argentina did not attend school, after the government moved to shutter educational institutions across the country. The measure affects children at kindergarten, primary and secondary school levels.

Children or adolescents who go to school to receive food and nutrition can still do so.

An estimated 35 percent of Argentines live below the poverty line in Argentina.

President Fernández is expected to spend the next 24 hours working at the Olivos presidential residence, echoing his own requests of citizens, as he oversees measures to tackle the public health emergency.

Officials from the national government, as well as administrations in Buenos Aires City and Province, are still discussing potential changes to public transport.

Other ministers – including Economy Minister Martín Guzmán and Production Minister Matías Kulfas – are leading talks about slowing price increases and the supply of products. Talks have also centred on a potential tax-relief programme for businesses to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.

Announcements on economic policies and transport measures may be made today, officials briefed yesterday.

To date there have been 65 confirmed diagnoses of the Covid-19 virus in Argentina, with two fatalities recorded.

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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