The government has extended Argentina's nationwide lockdown until April 26 amid signs shelter-in-place measures imposed to curb the coronavirus outbreak have succeeded in flattening the rate of infections.
The country will maintain a quarantine in large urban centres, President Alberto Fernández said Friday evening. Officials will also work with provinces to identify rural or small towns where activities will be allowed to continue as part of an “administered quarantine.” Borders will remain closed.
“The situation will remain the same in all major cities,” including Buenos Aires City, the Frente de Todos leader said. “We have managed to flatten the curve of new infections."
The president clarified that they would address "proposals from the [provincial] governors for an administered quarantine in [some] places" outside large urban centres.
The country’s lockdown, originally meant for March 20 to 31, had been extended until April 12. Fernández said the rate at which cases double is now every 10 days, down significantly from its peak of every three days, thanks to the strict lockdown, which will now run until April 26 inclusive.
“This policy makes sense,” Fernández told reporters at the presidential residence. “No-one knows when this agony will end, so it makes sense to keep doing what we’re doing.”
“Without the lockdown we could have had 45,000 cases by now,” Fernández said. “The lockdown has not been in vain.”
"The figures we have compared to those of the United States, Italy, Spain, Chile and Brazil demonstrate that quarantine makes sense, although we are far from the goal," said the president.
Still, authorities have faced pressure from business groups and unions to gradually reopen to limit the toll on the economy.
The government will allow some businesses to reopen, such as auto-repair shops, and will consider exceptions for people with disabilities. Banks will reopen to the public on April 13 with several restrictions, including the need to schedule an appointment. Officials may also loosen the lockdown to allow citizens to exercise outdoors. He also said that consideration will be given to allowing outings for disabled people and the autistic, but always accompanied.
"The only remedy is to stay home," he said, explaining that the government's decision was based on advice from its crisis committee, made up of infectious diseases and epidemiologists.
The Peronist leader didn’t say whether more virus tests would be available, or whether there was a change in policy on testing. Countries across the region have been criticised for a lack of testing.
Argentina added 81 new confirmed cases of the virus on Friday, boosting the number to 1,975, with 82 fatalities, according to a report. Earlier in the day, China President Xi Jinping offered Fernández help to fight the pandemic, local newspaper Clarín reported.
The country has been monitoring the whereabouts of some 200,000 people who arrived from abroad in the past 28 days, particularly in large urban centres, the president said. Around 400,000 Argentines have returned home by land and air since the pandemic began.
“You can restore gross domestic product but you cannot restore a life once it has been lost. Right now my biggest problem is not public spending, it is the health of Argentines,” Fernández said.