Nathan Wiesheu (30 August 2020)
Pre Covid-19, Argentina was facing a third year of a recession, over 50% inflation and was an incredibly politically divided country. Its leader, President Alberto Fernandez, was appointed less than a year ago but in his tenure has led Argentina surprisingly well throughout the pandemic. Argentina has only had 300,000 cases, which is low, considering its population of 45 million. Argentina’s timely response to the pandemic is in stark contrast to its neighbour Brazil whose cases exceed 3.5 million.
Despite bordering Brazil, Argentina has coped well as of yet. How has Argentina managed to do this? Firstly, like many countries, any individual arriving in Argentina from an at-risk country must self-isolate for 14 days to prevent any further spread of the virus. This proved to be an effective strategy across the world. A nationwide quarantine quickly followed this. At first, this was seen as a bold move as it had the possible effect of shutting down the country’s economy. Still, in hindsight, President Alberto Fernandez and his team have received plaudits for the decision.
An essential pre-requisite for an effective quarantine is community engagement. This came naturally for Argentina as many citizens have strong family links to both Italy and Spain; the two countries which were initially worst hit by the pandemic. President Alberto Fernandez reached out to experts from all regions to understand how best to combat the virus. This, combined with joint press conferences with opposition leaders, aimed to send a unified message; one that focused on educating citizens, and saving many lives in the process.
These measures, however, did not stop over 90% of cases, with cases soaring in Buenos Aires by mid-July. The sharp rise in cases highlighted the many flaws of the country’s healthcare system. Being quick to adapt, the Argentinian government oriented webinars and information-based services that aimed to equip front line workers with the knowledge to best treat the virus. Further, the government, in partnership with media companies sought to clamp down on the spread of misinformation.
However, there is the risk of a second wave hitting the country, given the centre of the epidemic shifting towards Brazil and Latin America. To effectively combat this, there is a need to upscale testing and tracing schemes. In the event infection rates begin to rise again, the government and health centres can be fully equipped to fight the virus.