Opposition lawmakers pressed the government this week to loosen its newly imposed 600-person limit on travellers re-entering Argentina, arguing that the rights of those stranded overseas were not being respected.
The government, which has already banned foreign tourists from entering the country for the past few months, announced last week that only 600 travellers per day (Argentines and resident foreign citizens) would be allowed to enter the country via international flights, down from the previous quota of 2,000 people.
The measure, which took effect last Saturday, aims to reduce the movement of people amid rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in the country and concerns over the spread of the more contagious ‘Delta’ variant.
The news caused in the local press and on social networks, where citizens who faced cancellations as a result of the move vented their anger and confusion over the lack of prior warning and organisation.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), among other airline groups, also expressed opposition to the move, while the decision prompted strong criticism from members of the Juntos por el Cambio coalition.
The Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) said that the measure "will continue to reduce the availability of jobs and income" in Argentina, considering the impact on airlines and tourism.
Midweek, UCR lawmaker Alfredo Cornejo issued a statement calling on the government to roll back on its move, describing the decision as "untimely and arbitrary" as well as “unconstitutional” as it “restricted, harms and alters the right of free movement.”
National lawmakers from Juntos por el Cambio met Friday to discuss the issue again, a day after the opposition coalition presented a habeas corpus writ before the courts in an attempt to reverse the decision.
Cristian Ritondo, the president of the PRO party lower house bloc, said that there is “no scientific evidence that restricting the number of passengers entering the country per day will stop the spread of the Delta strain.”
He called on the government to reverse the decision, saying that “no government should violate rights in order to defend other rights.”
National Migration Director Florencia Carignano rejected that criticism, saying that those stranded abroad by the introduction of the new rule had been made aware beforehand that this could happen,
“It is not nice to make this type of decision,” she said, but "it is preferable to having to suspend activities than have an outbreak of the Delta variant.”
"What we have done in a pandemic is not decide between good and bad. Because the truth is that it is not nice to make these kinds of decisions. We are choosing to decide between the ugly and the very ugly," said Carignano.
"The people who left [the country] were aware that they were leaving during a pandemic. They signed an affidavit assuming financial and health responsibility [for their decision to leave], and also signed an affidavit in which they accepted re-entry conditions imposed by the Argentine Republic,” declared the official.
The Noticias Argentinas news agency reported midweek that as many as 40,000 citizens and foreign residents are currently outside the country, according to government estimates.
Carignano has ruled out the chance of repatriation flights, like those seen last year during the initial strict coronavirus lockdown.
Attempting to underline its case, the National Migration Directorate released data on Wednesday showing that only 15 percent of those who had travelled overseas over the past month had done so for work.
The figures, based on a questionnaire taken from passengers prior to departure from May 28 to June 28, show that 60 percent of travellers were doing so for tourism.