BUENOS AIRES – With the reopening of shops halted and the closure of several train stations in Buenos Aires due to a new surge in coronavirus cases, Argentina entered an extension of its lockdown focusing on the spread of infection in the poorest neighborhoods of the city and its populous urban belt.
At the end of the extension stage on June 7, the country will have completed 80 days of social isolation.
Since the first case was detected on March 3, Argentina has recorded 12,628 people infected with COVID-19, of which 471 have died and 4,167 have recovered, according to official data. However, it has only been in the last week that the curve of contagion began to accelerate.
So far, 136,662 diagnostic tests have been carried out, equivalent to 3,011.7 tests per million inhabitants.
Undoubtedly, the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (BAMA) – which integrates the capital and the 40 surrounding municipalities of the province where some 13 million people live – is the most affected, with a rapid spread in the populous neighborhoods, or slums, where poverty is added to unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.
“The first thing the pandemic should teach us is that we live in an unjust country, and that now nobody has an excuse to say ‘I didn’t realize it,’ because we have all seen it,” said President Alberto Fernandez on Tuesday in La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires.
The president, who came to power in December, referred especially to Villa Azul, a poor neighborhood located in the Buenos Aires municipalities of Quilmes and Avellaneda, which has been isolated by a police cordon after the detection of a large number of infections.
According to Fernandez, a street divides the neighborhood into two: one side is more developed than the other.
“And that’s where the two Argentines can be seen in the same neighborhood,” he reproached, convinced of the need to avoid “sustaining and deepening” the inequality in the country and advocated for federalism and against the centralism of Buenos Aires.
Through a series of house-to-house operations, 93 positive cases have been recorded since Friday in Villa Azul, which has about 4,000 inhabitants.
Provincial authorities reported that residents of the neighborhood will be assured of food, cleaning and personal hygiene items so they don’t need to leave home, while people with mild symptoms will go to an isolation center and others to hospital.
Buenos Aires Governor Axel Kicillof did not rule out that when an outbreak appears in any part of the province, be it another popular neighborhood or even a single building, isolation such as that taking place in Villa Azul will be promoted.
Two weeks ago, the Argentine capital took a big step in relaxing the lockdown with the authorization for the reopening of shops considered non-essential, something that in the new extension, which entered into force Monday, has been largely repealed.
On Sunday, Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta warned that “the peak of infections is coming” in the city, the most affected in Argentina, with 5,875 cases.
That is why, due to the rapid increase in cases in recent days, it was decided to restrict non-essential trade activity in the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of affected people.
In addition, the closure of 11 of the 42 train stations in the city was ordered and citizens who had circulation permits must renew them.
The local health minister Fernan Quiros said that 2,841 people have been confirmed so far in the slums of villages with COVID-19 – most of them in Villa 31, the most emblematic for being located in the center, with 1,125 cases – and of them, 23 have died and 802 have been discharged.
More than 1,200 people living in settlements are isolated in hotels.
The other focus is nursing homes. A total of 39 elderly care homes have had at least one case, so there are already 239 confirmed and 51 deaths.
Quiros ruled out isolating neighborhoods or areas, since the circulation of the virus is widely dispersed. “It is much more effective to search for potential cases, identify them and distance them from the community quickly,” he added.
Excluding the BAMA and provinces such as the northern Chaco, the central Cordoba and the Patagonian Rio Negro, which continue to register new daily cases, the situation in the vast majority of the country is controlled.
Two provinces, Formosa and Catamarca, have not registered a single case since the pandemic began, and both have already authorized family gatherings on weekends.
In the case of Catamarca, the opening of bars, restaurants and gyms has also been authorized, as in Corrientes, which detected 78 positive cases – all now recovered.
In Cordoba, the second largest city in the country, commerce, real estate services and various religious activities became more flexible Tuesday, and other activities will be slowly resumed throughout the province.
In recent days in the Cordovan capital and other cities in the country, groups of citizens have mobilized to demand the end of the lockdown and the reactivation of economic activity in the country, which has been in recession for two years.
“Today the countries that have a strict quarantine have economic problems, and those that do not have one too. The economic crisis is the fault of the virus, not the policy response to the virus,” said Kicillof.