Graphic: Argentine COVID-19 figures are no longer flat
President Alberto Fernández has so far shown success in his fight against the pandemic, especially when compared with some of his neighbors. As the WHO declared South America to be a “new epicenter” of the pandemic, with Brazil posting 1000+ deaths on a daily basis, Ecuador and Peru also in disaster mode and Chile’s hospitals starting to get overwhelmed, Argentina has only lamented more than 20 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus once.
But after more than two months of harsh confinement, with more and more clusters detected in slums just as some of the restrictions were eased two weeks ago, the rising amount of cases forced the government to backtrack on part of its newfound flexibility and tighten the lockdown back.
President Fernández, BA Mayor Larreta and BA Province Governor Kicillof all had new restrictions to announce on their last press conference this weekend. Buenos Aires City closed several commercial districts, while the province is now mandating the use of a phone app for those working outside of their homes.
The reason is they all fear cases are on the verge of spiraling out of control. With public circulation slowly going up, Larreta said the rapid duplication in cases was not only tracked back to overcrowded slums, but also to middle-class neighborhoods. After two months of daily cases below 300 when the pandemic was only starting, figures closer to 800 per day are now the norm, and there’s lots of international precedent for how rapidly this can escalate to hundreds of thousands if there’s no containment.
Another discouraging sign was the rise in registered COVID-19 deaths, which confirmed that the uptick in cases was not just a result of improved detection or the launch of contact tracing operatives in city and provincial slums.
To add another worry, an anti-lockdown movement is also emerging in the country. Similar in ideology to those in Brazil or the US, with protesters speaking of state totalitarianism, communism and even 5G phone connections, the group that gathered in Plaza de Mayo on Monday was not massive, but could get bigger if it joins forces with a larger group that’s also growing tired and even desperate: that of shop owners and businessmen banned from working and barely reached by state subsidies.