President Alberto Fernández is expected to announce a new period of "strict confinement" in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) for the next nine days, according to multiple news reports.
The Peronist leader, who is expected to announce the news in the next 24 hours, has decided that a new lockdown for a short period is the only way to protect Argentina's health system. It is unclear if the restrictions will be expanded nationwide or only to areas registering high infections numbers. As usual, only those classified as 'essential workers' will be able to circulate during the period of confinement.
Fernández is believed to have come to his decision this afternoon and has the support of provincial governors, Noticias Argentinas reported.
The news comes after the Health Ministry on Thursday evening confirmed 35,448 new infections over the past 24 hours, along with 435 fatalities. While that's a decrease of more than 3,800 cases on the previous day, it is the second-highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic.
Argentina has now recorded more than 3.447 million confirmed cases, with 72,699 deaths, since the virus crisis began.
With the coronavirus second wave continuing to place strain on the nation's health system, the occupancy of beds in intensive care units has crept up to 72.6 percent nationwide, rising to 76.4 percent in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA).
According to reports, the president will issue a new emergency decree (DNU) in the next 24 hours which will kick in after existing restrictions in place expire on May 22. The new measures are expected to last until May 31.
On Thursday, Fernández spent three hours discussing his next move with 12 provincial leaders. A day earlier, he had heard from health experts and virus specialists, who are said to have told the president that imminent action was necessary in order to protect the health system.
Sources inside the Casa Rosada told NA on Thursday that another measure previously under discussion, a complete lockdown on weekends, was "not enough" to stop the recent surge in cases.
The government believes a large drop in the circulation of people is necessary to lower the number of cases, which this week have surged, they added.
Controls in Buenos Aires City and Buenos Aires Province are expected to be tightened until the start of June.
It is unknown if schools and in-person classes – which have been a flashpoint for City Hall and the Casa Rosada – will be suspended for the rest of May.
The national government imposed a lengthy and strict lockdown in 2020 to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Residents in the AMBA region spent more than 160 days under strict quarantine measures.