BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina tightened movement restrictions on Wednesday including curtailing the leisure industry and blocking nonessential workers from using public transport after the country hit a record number of COVID-19 infections as it struggles with a second wave of the virus.
President Alberto Fernandez announced a curfew between midnight and 6 a.m., the closure of bars and restaurants at 11 p.m. and the suspension of operations for casinos, bingo halls and nightclubs in areas of the country with the highest infection rates.
Sports in enclosed spaces with the participation of more than 10 people were also banned and in the Buenos Aires area, where cases have increased 53% in seven days, all but essential workers along with teachers and those with special authorisation are prohibited from using public transport.
Fernandez, who recently disclosed he had asymptomatic COVID-19, said he was seeking to strike a balance between protecting the health and the economic wellbeing of Argentines. He vowed to keep schools open “as much as possible.”
The announcements come just months after Argentina eased open its battered economy following a lengthy lockdown last year.
Fernandez, 62, who has received two doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, tested positive for COVID-19 at the weekend.
He said his experience showed “how important the vaccine is” and pledged to “redouble” the country’s inoculation campaign, despite concern over a continuing supply of doses.
By Tuesday, 4.5 million people had received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 699,598 people had received the two doses.
Argentina has so far recorded around 2.4 million coronavirus cases and 56,500 deaths, a Reuters tally of official data shows.
On Wednesday, it announced a new record of 22,039 confirmed cases, topping the previous day’s record of 20,870 cases.
Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/2FThSv7 in an external browser.
(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Matthew Lewis)