Buenos Aires, Feb 1 (efe-epa).- Argentina on Monday extended a raft of measures aimed at combating the novel coronavirus, including the closure of its borders to international tourism.
The move comes amid the nation’s slower-than-projected Covid-19 vaccine rollout and concerns that the crisis will worsen with the onset of autumn in March.
In a decision published in the Official Bulletin, President Alberto Fernandez’s administration extended until Feb. 28 its ban on the international entry of foreigners and non-residents, although an exception is made for direct relatives of either Argentine citizens or legal residents.
The suspension of flights to and from the United Kingdom due to concerns over a mutant coronavirus strain first detected there also has been extended until the end of this month.
Authorities also will continue making determinations on flight schedules and the number of passengers allowed entry into Argentina, particularly in cases of individuals arriving from the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus: the United States, Mexico, Europe and Brazil.
The government furthermore continues to recommend that Argentines – particularly those over the age of 60 or at-risk groups – postpone all non-essential international travel.
A total of 157,615 coronavirus cases are listed as active in Argentina, while the number of people known to have recovered and the amount of deaths attributed to Covid-19 stand at just over 1.72 million and 47,974, respectively.
The entire country, meanwhile, is required to heed preventative measures that are instituted locally based on the recommendations of national authorities.
They include maintaining two meters (6.5 feet) of social distance, wearing face coverings and complying with the protocols established for all approved commercial and cultural activities.
On Jan. 8, amid a rapid rise in cases during the first weeks of the Southern Hemisphere summer, when images surfaced of packed beaches and clandestine parties, the government issued a decree calling on provincial governors to institute a nighttime curfew if necessary.
A major focus of concern were the popular coastal tourist cities and towns of Buenos Aires province and the Argentine capital, where nightspots were not allowed to operate between 1 am and 6 am.
In comments to Radio La Red on Monday, Cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero credited those restrictive measures with avoiding a full-blown second wave of the virus.
The curve of new confirmed cases has flattened since mid-January and now stands below 11,000 per day, prompting Buenos Aires Gov. Axel Kicillof to state that nightspots could be allowed to operate until 2 am if the downward trend continues.
Even so, a lot of uncertainty surrounds the upcoming onset of fall at the end of March and the start of cooler weather that is known to facilitate the spread of the virus.
An uptick in cases potentially could alter the current plan for the resumption of in-person schooling, which in Buenos Aires is scheduled to start on Feb. 17.
SLOW VACCINE ROLLOUT
Argentina kicked off its Covid-19 vaccine campaign just over a month ago, although to date the shots have only been administered to front-line health-care workers over the age of 18.
The only vaccine in use in Argentina at present is the human adenovirus-based Sputnik V, which was developed by Russia’s state-run Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
Only one 410,000-unit shipment of the two-dose vaccine has arrived to date, far from the 5 million that was to have arrived in January under the contract signed with the Russian Direct Investment Fund.