BUENOS AIRES: Argentina issued a decree on Friday (Jan 8) empowering provinces to restrict nighttime activities in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, with authorities concerned about a new wave of cases being caused by Southern Hemisphere summer vacationers.

TV images have been filled with packed beaches and outdoor parties, with many people not wearing masks or observing social distancing guidelines.

As of Thursday, 1,690,006 cases of coronavirus had been recorded in the country, with 44,122 deaths. Data show that new daily infections more than doubled as Argentina’s summer holiday season got going at the end of the year.

The decree asks provincial governments to restrict movement of people in the late night and early morning hours.

“We have to be very aware of the situation we are in,” said President Alberto Fernandez’s chief of staff Santiago Cafiero, at a news conference.

“What we do at the national level is set guidelines and warn about future risks, but then those who must apply the measures are the local authorities. Today they have been empowered to do that.”

Atlantic beaches that run alongside the populous province of Buenos Aires have been among the most crowded in the country. Argentina began an early and strict quarantine in March, which was later made more flexible, in part to help an economy that has been in recession since 2018.

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