Faced with a rapid escalation in coronavirus cases, attributed mainly to the circulation of new variants, Argentina is facing a second wave of the pandemic with successive records, nearly 28,000 records of infection in 24 hours and a total cumulative deaths that exceed 58 thousand.
And, in this scenario, Alberto Fernández’s government is caught between the need for tougher action and the resulting popular rejection.
“It’s very difficult,” wrote the secretary of health of the province of Buenos Aires (which does not include the capital), Daniel Gollán, in a social network last weekend, commenting on the images of a completely crowded mall.
For Governor Axel Kicillof, it is not a second wave facing the country, “it’s a tsunami”. He is among those who have exerted the most pressure on the president for a lockdown of at least 15 days throughout the territory.
The speech of the authorities of the most populous province of Argentina obtained the support of medical and scientific entities who sent a letter to Fernández asking for greater restrictions to try to contain the spread of the disease, in an environment where de many hospitals are already collapsing.
According to them, the service in the metropolitan areas of Cordoba and Rosario is also close to full saturation.
“It is possible to say that we are living in a new pandemic”, declared the Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, this Wednesday morning (14), in Buenos Aires.
The difficulty of taking the necessary – and unpopular – measures comes up against the political cost.
Last year, when the health crisis arose, the national government and that of the province of Buenos Aires, who are Peronists (as well as Fernández), sat at the table with the opposition – whose main leadership is Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Head of Government. of the city of Buenos Aires.
The three levels of government have jointly and consensually announced each new phase of the pandemic confrontation, but this honeymoon is over.
Contrary to what is happening in Brazil with the administration of Jair Bolsonaro (without a party), the Argentine national government wants to impose severe quarantine measures, but finds opposition from some governors.
The main one is Larreta, pre-candidate for the presidency in 2023, accompanied by the leaders of the other non-Peronist provinces.
In everyone’s sights are the legislative elections in October this year, which should renew part of Congress and mark the trends for 2023. The Peronists are struggling to maintain their majority in Parliament, despite high inflation (35.8 % per year), growing poverty (42%) and critical of the management of the pandemic.
The opposition, in turn, led by ex-president Mauricio Macri, wants to take advantage of the wear and tear of Peronism to gain space.
Generally speaking, Peronists are in favor of drastic measures against the virus, while the opposition considers that the economy cannot withstand another shock like the long quarantine of 2020 (which was from March to September) and calls for more and more openings.
In recent weeks, the standoff has been reflected in the timid restrictions negotiated between them. For example, after Holy Week there was an announcement of new measures. The national government wanted a 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew.
The opposition lobbied, alongside the unions in the gastronomic sector, and succeeded in extending the hours until 11 p.m. Larreta went further and interpreted the law considering 23 hours as the maximum time for a person to enter and not leave a bar or restaurant.
The result is that bars and restaurants in Buenos Aires are crowded almost every night, with regulars enjoying the last hot days of the year and causing crowds in several areas of the capital.
Another battle is taking place in public transport. The national government succeeded in limiting its use by essential workers and teachers. Compliance with the measure, however, is an attribute of local governments – to get started it is necessary to display a QR code in an app – and the monitoring has not been strict.
Face-to-face classes continue across the country, but there is a lot of pressure from teachers’ unions, who are calling for a return to virtual education until the curve comes down again. The head of government of the city of Buenos Aires, for his part, insists that schools are not the object of contagion.
Trying to refine the speech, Fernández’s chief of staff Santiago Cafiero met officials for a lengthy meeting at the Casa Rosada on Tuesday evening (13), trying to set a timeline for further pandemic measures .
The president, who is with Covid, participated remotely in Olivos, where he is being quarantined.
But there was no agreement. And the expected announcement of new restrictions this morning has been replaced by a request from the Minister of Health that she needs the cooperation of regional authorities. Vizzotti hinted that tougher measures could be announced by the end of the week.