Argentina recorded another daily high of confirmed Covid-19 cases on Monday (June 22) as President Alberto Fernández met with officials to discuss a potential return to tighter restrictions in Buenos Aires City and Province.
The president met with Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta at the Olivos presidential residence for talks, after a sharp increase in coronavirus cases over the past few recent days. More than 2,000 cases were registered on Monday.
The meeting between the three leaders lasted an hour and a half. According to reports, the trio generally agreed to tighten restrictions on movement and the circulation of people in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA), while agreeing to finalise decisions at their next meeting.
"If the current trend continues in the coming days, [restrictions in] AMBA will go back and isolation measures will be tightened," a government source told Perfil.
Speaking after the meeting, Kicillof warned that "greater restrictions" were on the way.
While many provinces in Argentina have loosened lockdown rules, allowing most commercial activity providing face masks are used and social distancing is respected, residents in Buenos Aires City and Province have been mostly confined to their homes, with trips out only permitted for shopping or medical appointments and a little exercise. Only essential workers are allowed to use public transport at present in the region. The quarantine period in the metropolitan area is set to expire on June 28.
Meanwhile, the number of infections and fatalities continues to rise, with Argentina breaking past the barrier of 1,000 deaths this past Sunday. In the 200th health bulletin since the crisis began, officials said this evening that 2,146 new cases had been confirmed Monday, lifting the total number of infected to 44,391.
Of those new cases 1,037 were in Buenos Aires Province, with 1,024 in the capital. The two regions account for 89.9 percent of all of the cases registered in Argentina.
The Health Ministry also confirmed that 27 new fatalities had been recorded – 22 of which were either in Buenos Aires City or Province. To date, 1,043 people in Argentina have lost their lives after being infected with the virus.
Kicillof: 'Agreement' with City on 'greater restriction'
Though local reports say the details haven't been agreed, it seems likely that the lockdown in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) will be extended before the weekend, for at least a couple of weeks.
Government sources told the Noticias Argentinas news agency that the AMBA region would "go back" to previous restrictions and that "isolation measures will be tightened" if the number of infections continued to accelerate. Officials are "very attentive to the numbers of beds occupied and the increase in cases," they added.
In a radio interview after the meeting, Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof said that there was an "agreement" in place with Rodríguez Larreta, his City counterpart, to "move towards a greater restriction" in AMBA amid the growth of cases.
"There is agreement with Larreta that we must move towards greater restriction. If everything continues in this direction, we will have to be announcing stricter measures," Kicillof told Radio Con Vos.
The provincial leader said that it will be necessary to "drastically reduce mobility" in the coming days if the curve continues to rise.
"At the meeting we agreed that we must refer to the AMBA area as a whole. The pandemic began in Buenos Aires City, in a more intense way. The problem is not who is more infected and who is less. It cannot be that the growth of a side affects those of the other.," he said. "In the last week the number of infections has risen very strongly."
According to reports, a new meeting for the trio of leaders has not yet been finalised, though President Fernández will meet with a team of health experts in he coming days. The Peronist leader is expected to announce the details for the next phase of the quarantine extension in the AMBA region before the weekend.
Handling the peak
At the meeting the leaders discussed how they intend to tackle the peak of the pandemic, which Health Minister Ginés González García has said could arrive in the next two to three weeks.
Sources in the provincial government sources told Perfil that officials feel they need to be able to "regulate the numbers of the infected and stop them when the health system is close to collapse."
A second source, in the national government, told the outlet that "the most important thing today is to manage the number of beds."
To that end, officials will be closely watching numbers in the metropolitan area in the coming days.
"Everything indicates that the situation is going to get worse, a lot and very fast," the source told Perfil.
Residents in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area have now been under lockdown for more than 95 days. Officials must decide whether to extend the quarantine period and under what terms before the weekend.
Some restrictions have been loosened in the capital. On June 8, the City government authorised the reopening of shops selling footwear and clothing, although with rigid security protocols.
Across the country, sporting events, concerts and shows remain banned, while face-to-face teaching and schools are suspended at all educational levels.