Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said Thursday that his administration would adhere to the new measures introduced by the national government to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in Argentina.
At a press conference, the opposition leader said that doors of bars, restaurants and theatres would shut at 11pm, with customers allowed to stay until midnight. He also confirmed that the City government would reserve all public transport for essential workers and encourage all businesses to enable teleworking for staff.
He underlined, however, that schools would not close for the time being. "We are going to maintain the commitment to being present in schools, as long as the situation allows it – we cannot have a year like last year again," he said, referring to the lengthy shutdown of educational institutions witnessed last year.
Rodríguez Larreta appealed to the “trust” of citizens, saying everyone had to do “everything possible to take care of the rest.”
“It is not fear that is going to make us change our habits: it is collective action, it is having a common path and conviction that by working together we will succeed," declared the mayor, saying last year’s experiences left them in a better position to handle the second wave.
The City mayor said the key to resolving the virus crisis was “cutting the chain of infections,” as he underlined that testing in the capital had stepped up.
According to reports, the national government's proposal to introduce a night-time curfew was not welcomed by City Hall, which feels it is a restriction on individual freedoms. They are said to have preferred a later limit on movement, while the Casa Rosada was seeking to begin the cut-off at 10pm.
The opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition issued a statement Tuesday night in which they criticised the "excessive and poorly calibrated restrictions" the government has imposed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
The statement was signed by Rodríguez Larreta, former president Mauricio Macri, PRO party leader Patricia Bullrich, ex-Buenos Aires Province governor María Eugenia Vidal and a host of Radical leaders.
In contrast to Rodríguez Larreta, who said that restrictions could not last forever, Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof had a more dramatic take on the recent surge of infections on Thursday, as he confirmed his own administration’s new measures.
Declaring that he preferred to “expand and build hospitals and not cemeteries,” the Frente de Todos leader said that the rise in infections indicated how “the situation changed violently and suddenly."
"It is a very complicated regional context. Our province can say that it faced one of the most serious crises in history with enormous effort and with an enormous collective spirit. We come from a complicated year and today the situation changed violently and suddenly," he said.
"It is not a [second] wave, it is a tsunami. We went from 2,500 cases to more than 6,000 on average per day. And yesterday [Wednesday] we reached 10,000. The speed with which infections are growing is incredible. "
Describing the situation as “a horror” and warning that some hospitals in the province were “in danger” of reaching saturation point, Kicillof cautioned.
He said curfew hours would depend on each municipality and their own individual situation, though the governor warned that those who did not follow the rules would face "a severe system of fines."
He said the province was planning welfare support plans and stepping up vaccination and testing – on Wednesday, 82,000 individuals received a dose, a new record. "This is a serious crisis," he declared.