**7:00 PM Update: President Alberto Fernández has signed this afternoon a presidential emergency decree declaring a health emergency in all of Argentina. Fernández is scheduled to address the population of Argentina at 8:00 PM**
Yes, we know what you’re thinking. “Oh, there’s the media again, trying to scare us all into thinking the coronavirus is going to kill us all.”.
Well, first of all, referring to “the media” as an entity of monolithic thinking is obviously wrong. There’s good media and bad media. There’s a lot of irresponsible coverage and fear mongering in the media (because money, duh) and then there’s a lot of really good coverage that, irrespective of whether you think this is the end of times of “just like the flu”, is trying to keep you informed so a) you don’t get it and b) you don’t give it to someone who could be at risk.
Considering the disgusting amount of disinformation making the rounds on social media (capitalizing on the fact that the public’s trust in the mainstream media is at a low), it is now more important than ever that you check the source of everything that reaches your phone, especially via WhatsApp or Facebook. Please remember that just because your mother forwarded it to you or because it includes the name of an allegedly “prestigious doctor in Italy”, it doesn’t make it true. Verify, verify, verify. For official information on prevention you can always check the Ministerio de Salud website (in Spanish) or the World Health Organization (in English).
Alright? Alright. Let’s do this, Q&A style (and if you want to know what to do you if have any symptoms go to the bottom of the article).
OK, so how many people have been infected in Argentina so far?
As of today, 31 people in Argentina have tested positive for the novel coronavirus Covid-19. Three of them are the result of local transmission. A 64-year Argentine, a man who had recently returned from a trip to Paris, died in Buenos Aires last Saturday as a result of the virus. He was the first reported death from the illness in Latin America. So far no other deaths have been reported, but many people are awaiting test results. President Alberto Fernández said this morning that the situation “is under control” but once again said his government was surprised to see that the virus could survive in the hot weather. He also urged people older than 65 years old to stay home if they can.
Thanks. So what’s going on with the government in Argentina? There’s talk about a mandatory quarantine and flight cancelations.
Yes, the President has signed an emergency decree any second now that enacts this. For now it only affects people who have been to the so-called “risk countries” or areas where there’s widespread infection (China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, South Korea, United States). Today, Argentina banned all incoming flights from the US, China and Europe for 30 days.
If you’re back from any country included in that list, you are to go home and remain isolated there for fourteen days (even if you have no symptoms) to make sure that, if you are infected, you’re not giving the coronavirus to anyone else. This is not just for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, this is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have it, you are to stay home for fourteen days anyway. The same thing goes to everyone who has been in touch with anyone who is symptomatic or has tested positive for the virus.
Even if you’re a foreigner living here? Or a tourist?
Everyone. If you’re a tourist, you will also be required to obtain a sanitary visa. If you’re a foreigner planning a trip to Argentina soon, check with the Argentine embassy in your home country on how to proceed. If you are coming from a country that is not on the list but you have a layover on one of the countries that is, you’re also required to isolate yourself for 14 days.
Wow… Is that legal?
The national government is resorting to two articles on the Argentine Criminal Code. Article 205, which sets imprisonment from 6 months to 2 years for “anyone in violation of the competent authorities’ measures adopted to stop the introduction or propagation of an epidemic”, and Article 239, which warns of possible prison time (15 days to a year) for anyone who “resists or disobeys a public official and the legitimate exercise of their power, or anyone assisting them in accordance to a legal obligation.”
Damn. But how will the government make sure everyone’s following it?
Well… first of you all, you should do it no matter what the government says. It doesn’t matter if you are 25 and healthy, this isn’t just about you. This is also about the people who could get it from you. Remember that the people at risk of serious illness from the Covid-19 are older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. It’s would be extremely irresponsible from you to land from New York this morning and run to hug your grandmother.
Government sources told La Nación that in case someone ignores the isolation rule, “a police report will be filed by the authorities to determine whether or not that person broke the law.” As of now, there’s not much more information on additional ways to enforce this. In the meantime, a lot of people on social media are encouraging other people to call the police on travelers who choose to ignore the 14-day isolation period.
OK, and what about those of us who haven’t been on a plane? How is this affecting our lives?
Well, you’re in for a fun ride. And by “fun ride” I mean totally not fun.
In the city of Buenos Aires, you can kiss goodbye to all music festivals, museums, conferences, games or anything with large crowds. If you’re a tourist, there won’t be much for you to see (and you should spend the first 14 days of your trip self-quarantined anyway). This morning, Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta offered a press conference to update the population.
So just to make it clear, here is a list of what the BA city (and BA province) governments are doing to stop the spread of the coronavirus:
- All football or soccer matches in the city will happen behind closed doors. Sorry, no fans.
- Maroon 5 is canceled
- The Offspring is canceled
- Lollapalooza is postponed
- Also, here’s a list on Infobae that includes all shows and music festivals that have been canceled
- Museums and other cultural events are closed
- Nightclubs for more than 40 0r 50 people will have to suspend operations
- Casinos will also have to suspend operations
- BA City’s Tour Bus (the yellow one) will not be operational
- Theaters (this includes movie theaters) may operate with restrictions (an empty seat may be mandatory between people to avoid physical proximity)
- Access and visits to retirement homes will be restricted
- All private events in the city of Buenos Aires with more than 200 people are canceled. This includes weddings.
- Encourage businesses to let their employees work remotely
What should I do if I have any of the symptoms?
- Call 107
- If you can’t get through, call 911 and ask them to send an ambulance to get tested
- Don’t go to a hospital or emergency room. If infected, you could be spreading it to others there. Wait for them to come see you and tell you how to proceed
We got this, people! This is the perfect time to catch up with Elite or one of those awful yet great Netflix shows.
This is Argentina. We’ve been through hell and back.
Let’s work together to overcome this too.