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ARGENTINA | 07-05-2020 12:46

'Thousands would die' if we ended lockdown now, says Fernández

President rules out an immediate exit from Argentina's coronavirus lockdown, saying to do so would "lead to the death of thousands."

President Alberto Fernández on Wednesday ruled out an immediate exit from Argentina's coronavirus lockdown, saying to do so would "lead to the death of thousands."

Opposition parties, economists and business leaders have stepped up demands for the government to relax strict quarantine measures to allow industries to reopen.

Exiting the quarantine, "in the terms they are demanding, will lead to the death of thousands of Argentines because we cannot control" the virus, said Fernández in a radio interview.

A campaign on social media has called for protests on Thursday against the government's lockdown measures, as the country's already battered economy sinks deeper into recession.

"You cannot quarantine and make the economy work. Those who chose to prioritise the economy ended up gathering the dead in refrigerated trucks and burying them in mass graves," the Peronist leader told Radio con Vos.

He said the government's policy had succeeded in slowing down the rate of infections, and held out the possibility of gradually loosening the lockdown measures starting on Monday.

Argentina's economy, rocked by 50 percent inflation and rising numbers of poor and jobless, has stuttered through two years of recession. 

The Fernández administration is in talks with bondholders to restructure US$65 billion of Argentina's debt, with the country's GDP is forecast to drop by 6.5 percent this year.

On March 20 the government decreed compulsory social isolation for 15 days for all citizens and has been extending it every two weeks. 

The measures were relaxed in some rural areas, but they remain firm in the greater Buenos Aires region, where a third of the country's 45 million people live.

By Wednesday, Argentina had registered 5,100 infections with 273 deaths, with roughly 70 percent of infections registered in Buenos Aires City and Province alone.

- TIMES/AFP

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