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Tired of quarantine, Argentines ignore new COVID-19 restrictions

BUENOS AIRES, Apr 16 (Reuters) – Jaded after the extensive lockdown in 2020, businesses and customers in Buenos Aires decided on Friday to ignore the new restrictions imposed by the government to control the strong second wave of the coronavirus that is devastating Argentina.

In addition to a controversial suspension of classes, the measures provide for the night-time closure of shops and the prohibition of using internal spaces in gyms, restaurants and bars, which were some of the items hardest hit last year, when President Alberto Fernández ordered a strict social isolation to face the pandemic.

Although the presidential decree runs from Friday until April 30, many believe that the restrictions could be extended, as it happened repeatedly in 2020.

The ‘Upside Down Chairs’ movement, created last year to defend the interests of renowned restaurants in Buenos Aires, assured that it will not abide by the decree, which it considered a “new outrage” against the sector.

“Gastronomy is not contagious. We are a safe space to work. It has already been proven that we are not a source of contagion and a source of jobs,” the group said in a statement.

“REBELLION”

In different neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and its surroundings, clients could be seen on Friday inside bars, gyms and restaurants.

“That the president does what he has to do. I do not agree with these measures,” explained Marcelo, 63, who has had a bar in the Almagro neighborhood for 18 years. “Last year was very tough.”

The gastronomic entrepreneur said that he will not abide by the new regulations, which authorize only tables abroad.

A gym on the famous Corrientes avenue had the entrance blind raised in half, which allowed the entrance of its clients.

“At the moment we are still open, like all gym chains,” said an employee who did not want to give her name.

Fernández was against the “rebellion” of these sectors and stressed that they have received state aid to survive during the previous restrictions.

“Laws are made to be complied with. I can understand that these sectors may be affected in some way, but I want to remind you that all those bars, restaurants that are still alive today last year received assistance from the State,” the president explained in a conference of press.

“For me, the rebellion does not (…) I am here to help them in the emergency we are experiencing, I am not to tolerate them doing what they want,” he added.

Verónica, employed in a bar, only on Friday learned of the prohibition to attend inside the premises.

“We have only four tables outside, so you can’t,” he explained. “I do not accept it but neither do people accept it, who continue to enter to consume inside.”

The new restrictions also suspend face-to-face classes until the end of April and restrict circulation between 20 and 6 in the morning, local time, in the city of Buenos Aires and its surroundings.

The measures triggered short circuits between the center-left Fernández and the opposition mayor of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who appealed to the Justice so that the face-to-face classes return to the Argentine capital.

Argentina this week registered a daily record of 27,001 new patients. The country totaled 2.6 million cases as of Thursday, of which 58,925 died.

(Reporting by Agustín Geist; Additional reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Edited by Eliana Raszewski and Jorge Otaola)

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