Argentina to Impose 9-Day Lockdown as Cases, Deaths Surge
(Bloomberg) -- Argentina will implement a stricter lockdown for nine days amid the worst coronavirus outbreak to date, after daily records for cases and deaths were set this week.
President Alberto Fernandez announced that all non-essential, in-person activities are suspended, including schools, sports, churches and social gatherings. People will be allowed to circulate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in areas near their home. Only essential businesses may remain open.
Then from May 31 to June 11, the government plans to lift the lockdown and return to a recent phase of restrictions, which still include an 8 p.m. curfew and limited social activities.
“Today, we need to take care of ourselves,” Fernandez said in a national address. “We’re living through the worst moment of the pandemic.”
Daily cases have surged as Argentina nears the South American winter and citizens lose patience with restrictions after a strict lockdown for much of last year. This week, Argentina reported more than 35,000 new cases each day, by far the worst stretch since the pandemic arrived in March 2020. About 73% of intensive-care unit beds are currently occupied in Argentina.
Like many developing countries, Argentina is struggling to secure enough vaccine for its population. About 18.7% of Argentina’s 45 million citizens have received at least one shot while just 4.8% are considered fully vaccinated.
Neighboring Uruguay and Paraguay have also seen a surge in Covid infections. Together with Argentina, the three are currently posting the highest per capita deaths over a seven-day period in the world, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. And while Brazil has passed its worst peak for now, fatalities remain above 2,000 per day.
Additional social spending tied to the latest Covid wave -- and not anticipated in the 2021 budget -- will cost 480 billion pesos ($5.1 billion), or 1.3% of gross domestic product, according to the presidential press office.
Those outlays will be financed by Argentina’s new wealth levy and the increase in tax revenue so far this year.
Eight out of 10 Argentines say the pandemic is affecting their personal financial situation, according to a poll by Buenos Aires-based consulting firm Poliarquia conducted between May 6 and 7. The poll shows that 48% of Argentines don’t approve of Fernandez’s management of the health crisis.
The return to a severe lockdown adds more challenges to Argentina’s already fragile economic recovery ahead of mid-term elections at the end of the year. Economic activity shrank in February and March from the previous months, while a recent ban on meat exports triggered a strike by farm groups. Inflation is accelerating.
Argentina’s economy contracted nearly 10% last year due in part to the strict lockdown.
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