BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The government of President Alberto Fernández on Thursday announced a strict lockdown for the first time this year after more than 35,000 coronavirus infections were reported for the third straight day in Argentina and the death toll skyrocketed.
The measures will last from Saturday until May 31, and will limit circulation and suspend social, business, educational, religious and sporting activities. Workers with essential jobs will be exempted from the measures.
“We are living the worst moment since the pandemic began,” Fernández said in a message broadcast by the national TV chain. “We are seeing the highest numbers of cases and deaths. We must take this critical situation seriously and not naturalize so much tragedy.”
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Argentina imposed one of the longest quarantines between March and July, when it began to ease the restrictions. The negative impact of the lockdown on the economy and national mood left the government with little room to move now, but the combination of few vaccine doses and more contagious variants of the virus has put Argentina’s health sector on the verge of collapse.
On Tuesday, the South American country exceeded its daily record of virus infections and COVID-19 deaths with 35,543 new cases and 745 deaths. The subsequent days saw similar high infection rates. Overall, Argentina has seen 3.4 million confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 72,000 deaths.
Fernández said that after May 31, pandemic measures will return to their current level: a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and social, recreational and commercial activities prohibited in closed spaces. In addition, a strict confinement will be mandatory for the weekend of June 5-6.
“It is vital that the authority of each jurisdiction apply the rules that we are dictating. There is no room for speculation or doubt,” said Fernández, criticizing governors for not ensuring compliances with measures previously ordered.
The president said there will be economic aid for the sectors affected by the new restrictions and confirmed that in the next few days more than 4 million does of Sputnik V and AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive.