Argentina to ease Buenos Aires restrictions after nearly four months of tight lockdown

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Protest against quarantine measures amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Buenos Aires. REUTERS

Argentina will gradually loosen a lockdown that has lasted nearly four months in and around Buenos Aires, President Alberto Fernandez said on Friday, after tougher restrictions since the start of July helped slow the spread of new COVID-19 infections.

Fernandez said the gradual return to normal life will happen in several stages, with the first stage lasting until Aug. 2.

In capital Buenos Aires, which has been under the tightest restrictions in the country since March 20, shops, hair salons and some professional services will re-open.

Outdoor recreation activities will also be permitted. Schools will remain closed while officials analyze options for re-opening, said Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, who joined Fernandez for the announcement from the presidential palace.

The government had come under pressure to begin reopening after facing criticism from opposition lawmakers and growing protests in the streets of Buenos Aires against the lengthy lockdown.

Argentina has confirmed 114,783 cases, with 2,133 deaths, according to the latest official data, numbers that are relatively low compared to many of Argentina’s South American neighbors.

“The effort we made was very important … We are among the countries with the fewest deaths,” Fernandez said, adding that the government could choose to tighten restrictions if infections increase again.

“We are very far from overcoming the problem. What matters to us is that the health system does not collapse,” he said.

The country went into national lockdown on March 20, with restrictions later eased in many parts of the country outside Buenos Aires. Its borders remain closed, though a ban on commercial flights is due to expire on Sept. 1.

SOURCE> REUTERS

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