By Bala Chambers
LONDON (AA) – Argentina announced Friday that COVID-19 restrictions have been extended until 21 May.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez announced new measures to contain the second wave of increased infections, with the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area being hit hard.
In a televised address the president said the "priority is to take care of health and life".
"We are taking measures based on epidemiological and sanitary criteria, considering first the number of cases in the population,” said Fernandez.
He also urged citizens to stay at home and only leave their homes if it is “essential”.
Under the new measures, Argentina will be divided into four zones of "epidemiological and sanitary risk" — ranging from “low, medium, high and alarm”.
The president said in the "areas of medium epidemiological and sanitary risk”, local authorities will have "the power and responsibility" to adopt additional measures to reduce the spread of infections.
With Fernandez noting the potential risk to the healthcare service, apart from essential workers, no travel between 8 pm and 6 am is permitted – with school classes continuing online.
In high-risk areas, Fernandez has suspended a range of activities: social activities in private homes, social gatherings in public outdoor spaces with more than 10 people and suspension of all casinos and discos.
According to local reports, the president is expected to include the new measures in the Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU).
On Thursday, the Ministry of Health announced a new daily death toll record with 561 deaths.
In recent weeks Argentina has been hard-struck by the second wave of infections, setting daily records. As a result, tighter restrictions had already been imposed, with health Minister Carla Vizzotti describing the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area as "the epicenter of the pandemic."
On Thursday the percentage of total occupancy of adult ICU beds in Argentina stood at 68.4% but was higher in The Buenos Aires Metropolitan area at 76.6%.
According to Ministry of Health data, around 7.8 million vaccine doses have been administered, with 6.8 million people receiving the first dose and 922,488 receiving the second dose.
As of Friday, Argentina, with a population of more than 45 million, has registered more than 2.9 million cases of the virus and 63,508 deaths.
More than 2.6 million patients have recovered.