Restaurants, bars, theaters, and all commercial activity in the city of Buenos Aires will close from 1 to 6 in the morning as reported by Reuters. At the same time, the number of people allowed in social gatherings will be reduced from 20 to 10 as part of the new restrictions imposed in Argentina to contain the increase in coronavirus infections.
The measure, which will take effect at dawn on Sunday, was announced on Friday by the Vice Mayor of Buenos Aires, Diego Santilli, hours after the national government published a decree by which it enabled the provinces to restrict commercial activity and the movement of people due to the existence of "high health risk".
"A month ago, there was a daily average of 350 cases. Today it is 942. This average is from the last 15 days, among which there were some days with 1,500 cases", Santilli explained in a press conference.
The infectologists attributed the increase in cases to demonstrations, meetings for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, and the celebration of clandestine parties in the middle of the summer season in different tourist centers of the country. More than 40% of the newly infected are young.
After several days of speculation about the possibility of imposing a health curfew, the Alberto Fernández government left it up to each governor to impose restrictions when the following health parameters are met: that the quotient between the number of confirmed cases accumulated in the last 14 days and the number of confirmed cases accumulated in the previous 14 days is greater than 1.20.
Also that the number of confirmed cases accumulated in the last 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants is greater than 150.
The provincial authorities "should prioritize the limitation of circulation at night, given that, based on national and international experience, it has been established that the activities that carry a high risk of transmission are those that involve prolonged close contact in spaces that are closed with little ventilation or open with the concentration of people, making it difficult to use a mask and maintain physical distance," according to the presidential decree.
The Argentine capital did not restrict the movement of people but focused on "76 points in the city where the greatest number of people are usually concentrated, 39 gastronomic areas and 37 green spaces," according to a statement.
In addition to setting the closure of commercial activity from 1 in the morning, with the exception of pharmacies, inspectors, prevention agents, and other areas will be deployed "to raise awareness and accompany the neighbors and control that these provisions are met."
The economic crisis that left the quarantine imposed from March to November added to the social unrest due to the confinement, which led the governors to ask the Executive to continue determining their own rules within the pandemic framework. There is also a political reason: in the middle of this year, there are legislative elections.
Some provinces, such as Chaco and La Pampa, restricted circulation and banned social gatherings due to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. Other provinces, however, did not impose limitations due to a controlled health situation.
Before the official announcement, representatives of the gastronomic sector had warned that more restrictions would worsen their economic situation even more. The activity carried out under sanitary protocols has not affected the increase in infections in recent days.
On the other hand, the national government implemented a new income and expenditure regime to the country, which, among other things, restricts the arrival of foreigners "except for family reunification or labor issues."
Argentines or residents who have left the country by land before December 25 may return through the same border crossings. Those who did so later must do so by air through Ezeiza and San Fernando International Airports.
Meanwhile, flights to and from the United Kingdom will continue to be suspended due to coronavirus's new variant. The Ministry of Health reported on Thursday 13,835 new infections nationwide for a total of 1.69 million since the pandemic broke out in March 2019. The deaths amount to 44,122.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Argentina is in the 12th place of countries with the most cases of COVID-19 (the others being the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Colombia).