Argentine President Alberto Fernández yesterday announced a new, unmodified extension of the quarantine to try to contain the coronavirus epidemic. The measure was extended until November 8. Argentina has already accumulated 233 days of a regime that, even under strong restrictions, keeps the country among the worst in the global ranking of contagions.
“We will continue for another 14 days as we are today,” announced Fernández. The head of state communicated his decision to the Argentines during a visit to the province of Misiones, on the border with Brazil and Paraguay.
The new coronavirus now advances in the interior of the country, especially through eight provinces that concentrate 55% of the approximately 15 thousand daily contagions: Córdoba, Santa Fé, Tucumán, Mendoza, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut and San Luis.
Unlike the interior, in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, which includes the Argentine capital plus 13 municipalities around the city, the contagion curve has been decreasing in the last two weeks, although it is still considerable.
“We will see the fruits that gave the 14 days in which we declared the last sanitary isolation. For this reason, we will continue in the same conditions that we are today. Despite the downtown area of Buenos Aires, we still cannot say that we are calm because a significant number of contagions “, he pointed out.
Despite the longest quarantine in the world, Argentina has climbed positions in the global ranking of contagions. With 1.07 million infected, the country ranks seventh in the list of countries with the highest number of infected people in proportion to the population, even when it is one of the least tested. During the last week, the country came to occupy the fifth position.
Physicist Jorge Aliaga, a researcher at the University of Buenos Aires and the National Council for Scientific and Technical Investigations (Conicet), estimates that the number of positive cases is up to eight times greater than that registered by the authorities.
“In Argentina, between 5 and 8 million people must have been infected, despite the fact that the tests only confirmed 1 million,” said Aliaga.
If only observed in the last five weeks, Argentina is among the countries with the highest number of daily deaths. There are 8 per million inhabitants, according to data from the European Epidemiological Control Centers.
Virus advances inland
“We see that, in the interior of the country, the virus is spread beyond the cities. It is also in the small towns”, indicated the president, as an argument to justify the saturation of hospitals in cities in the interior.
“In addition to contagions, […] we noticed a stress in medical care. Saturated hospitals, tired health personnel. There are specific places in all provinces where the level of saturation is at a limit, “admitted Fernández, explaining that saturation in these hospitals happens because they” serve all nearby villages “.
Polls indicate that most Argentines are against continuing quarantine after 217 days of strict restrictions. According to consultancy Giacobbe, for example, 58.2% of Argentines disapprove of a new extension. The number has grown every 14 days. In the previous survey, it was 55%.
“We are far from wanting to cut rights and freedoms. We only seek to preserve the health of all of us,” argued the president. “Little by little, we are going to open up activities, because the economy needs it too,” promised Fernández, indicating at the same time that the country “is far from having solved this problem”.
Buenos Aires eases restrictions
Contrary to the president’s announcements, the governor of the Federal District, Horario Larreta, announced new flexibilities in the country’s capital.
Bars, restaurants and gyms can occupy 25% of their maximum internal capacities, depending on ventilation. Until now, they could only use outdoor spaces. Museums may open with prior reservation, as well as outdoor swimming pools may operate with a limited number of visitors and without access to the changing rooms.
After seven months, civil marriages will be allowed with a maximum of 20 people, patients will be able to return to rehabilitation treatment and preschool children will be able to have educational and recreational activities outdoors.
Argentina still does not allow face-to-face classes or the use of public transport for those who are not essential workers. Domestic flights were resumed only for essential activities. People cannot cross from one province to another or from one municipality to another. The circulation of people and vehicles within cities requires special permission. Meetings of friends and family members who do not live together are prohibited.