BUENOS AIRES: Argentina will relax coronavirus restrictions as infection and mortality rates falls, the government announced on Friday (Aug 6), even as the South American nation approached 5 million cases with more than 107,000 deaths.
The government said its plan includes an increase in the number of people who can meet in person, re-opening of schools and an increase in the number of people allowed to enter the country to 1,700 per day from the current 1,000. Argentina has a total population of about 45 million.
"The more we vaccinate and take care of ourselves, the more we can sustain these achievements and advance in sustained and progressive openings," President Alberto Fernandez said in a recorded TV message.
Vaccinations have increased in recent days after a surge in virus transmission last month, in the dead of the Southern Hemisphere winter when more people were tempted to socialise indoors, away from the icy winds coming up from the Antarctic.
Argentina adopted the plan after 10 consecutive weeks of lower case numbers and eight weeks of decreasing deaths.
The second stage of the new program, depending on infection rates, would include greater capacity for closed-door gatherings, unlimited attendance at open-air events, group trips for those who are fully vaccinated and the reopening of borders to receive vaccinated foreigners.
The program would eventually include reopening outdoor sporting events, of great importance in the soccer-crazed nation. But that will only happen if case loads continue to fall, Fernandez said.
In news that may convey optimism ahead of November congressional elections, Fernandez said he expects the economy to grow 7 per cent this year after a three-year recession severely exacerbated by the pandemic in 2020.
"The vaccine is the best economic policy. Thanks to vaccination we are recovering," he said.
Given shortages of second doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, one of the most frequently administered in the country, Argentina has started offering a second dose of the Moderna and/or AstraZeneca vaccines.
Argentina has vaccinated about 25.84 million people with the first dose, but only 7.98 million with the second, according to official data.