Argentina surpassed the 50,000-barrier of coronavirus infections on Thursday evening, on the eve of a new announcement of tightened restrictions in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA).
According to local outlets, President Alberto Fernández will say in a pre-recorded televised broadcast on Friday that a new phase of lockdown in the AMBA region will be introduced, running from July 1 to 17 (a period that includes 10 working days and two national holidays).
Citizens in the AMBA region will be asked to return to the strict conditions applied in 'Phase 1' period of Argentina's bid to halt the spread of Covid-19, with two notable exceptions – children will still be allowed out on weekends and current banking hours will remain as they are. In both the capital and Greater Buenos Aires only essential commercial shops will remain open (such as supermarkets and pharmacies). Officials will also roll back permissions on exercise.
The measures were finalised at a series of meeting on Thursday. Initially the government was expected to announce the new phase of lockdown later that evening, though sources confirmed to reporters that it has now been pushed back to Friday, most likely around midday.
On Saturday, those in the capital and its surroundings will reach their 100th day of quarantine, one of the longest lockdowns to tackle the virus in the world.
Argentina recorded a new daily record of 2,606 infections on Thursday, with 34 deaths also reported. To date, 1,150 fatalities from Covid-19 have been recorded since the pandemic began, with a total of 52,444 testing positive. Health Ministry officials say that 14,788 people have recovered from the disease.
President Alberto Fernández said this week that Argentina wasn't out of the woods, with the peak still to come.
"We are very far from solving the problem. You have to be very firm and tough, and make people understand that going out [on the street and to public places] is a huge risk," the Peronist leader said this week, hinting that some firms that were now open would likely have to shut their doors temporarily once again.
Argentina's infection rate is 88 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, in a country of 44 million, according to official figures.
To date, around 95 percent of new cases in the country are being recorded in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (the capital and the 13 districts that surround it).Officials say the health system is not at the limit. In the AMBA region, the occupation of intensive care beds is 54.1 percent. Nationally it stands at 48.3 percent.
In 18 of Argentina's 23 provinces (with the federal capital not included in that tally), there is no community circulation of the coronavirus. Plans for the gradual re-opening of almost all activities are kicking in, except for schools, sporting events and arts and entertainment shows. Public gatherings or any types of crowds are also banned.