Argentina will tighten pandemic lockdown steps to tackle a serious second COVID-19 surge, President Alberto Fernandez said on Thursday (May 20), underscoring the country’s alarm as regular cases and deaths have shattered records in the last week.
The stringent “circuit breaker” steps will go into effect on Saturday and will be in effect until May 31. They include school and non-essential commerce closures, as well as the prohibition of social, religious, and sporting activities in the 45 million-person country.
“We are living the worst moment since the pandemic began,” Fernandez said. “Today as never before we must all take care of ourselves to avoid all the losses that we can.”
Citizens who are not classed as essential workers will be allowed to be out close to their homes between 6am and 6pm; otherwise, they must stay at home.
The restrictions come as the government accelerates a vaccination campaign that has lagged ambitious initial plans. So far, only 4.7 per cent of the population has been fully inoculated and 18.4 per cent has received at least one dose, according to a Reuters analysis.
Fernandez has launched an economic rescue plan for industries worst affected by the pandemic, which has exacerbated a three-year-long recession that has left millions of Argentines in poverty.
Argentina registered 35,884 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, following a high of 39,652 on Wednesday.
Total infections are estimated to be about 3.45 million, putting the nation ahead of hard-hit Brazil on a per capita basis and pushing hospital intensive care units to near-capacity. There have been a total of 72,699 confirmed deaths.