Monday, July 6, 2020
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ARGENTINA | 01-06-2020 16:10

Protesters rally in Buenos Aires to demand end of Covid-19 lockdown

Approximately 1,000 people gathered at the Obelisk on Saturday in downtown Buenos Aires to call for an end to the mandatory quarantine that's been in force since March 20.

Approximately 1,000 people gathered at the Obelisk on Saturday in downtown Buenos Aires to call for an end to the mandatory quarantine that's been in force since March 20.

The group – many of whom carried Argentina's national flag and ignored social distancing rules – descended on the capital's iconic landmark, chanting and singing songs denouncing the lockdown. The rally was publicised on social media using the slogans: "No to the totalitarian state," "Come to march for freedom," "An intelligent quarantine" and "Freedom to work and mobilise."

A significant amount carried signs with conspiratorial overtones, with some denouncing vaccines and alleging the pandemic was part of a global plot to introduce a "new world order." Similar signs were seen at a smaller protest at the Plaza de Mayo last Monday. Others prioritised the re-opening of Argentina's economy.

"Enough quarantine, freedom of work," read one of the signs carried by protesters on Saturday. 

Argentina to date has registered more than 16,000 infections from the novel coronavirus and just 500 deaths – figures far below those of many of its Latin American peers, including neighbouring Brazil. Despite the relative success of the lockdown, the country is currently recorded record daily highs – 795 infections were registered on Saturday alone.

More than one million confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the region to date.

The Alberto Fernández administration has extended the quarantine on successive occasions since March, although it has allowed some non-essential activities in different parts of the country, depending on rate of infection and population density.

However, both the national and local administrations are concerned about the situation in Buenos Aires and its heavily populated periphery, where almost 90 percent of all infections are concentrated.

One City government official said last week that the quarantine in Greater Buenos Aires could last for between six and ten weeks more.

Economic pain

The prohibition of non-essential economic activities in and around the capital has prompted a strong reaction, especially among small and medium size businesses and self-employed workers.

"[The quarantine] is not necessary, we are big, we know how to take care of ourselves," one protester who identified herself as Rachel told AFP, as she rallied at the Obelisk.

"It was a wise move to immediately adopt the quarantine but later it has become a political issue," said Marcelo Bach, 58. 

Despite the relatively small protest, a vast majority of Argentines are supportive of the lockdown, polls show. Almost 85 percent of residents in Argentina approved of the quarantine's most recent extension on June 7, according to a survey by the consulting firm Raúl Aragón y Asociados.

Doctors also protested Sunday at the Obelisk demanding better biosecurity protection and a rise in their salaries – their second protest in a week.

– TIMES/AFP

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