LETTER FROM BUENOS AIRES
The streets of Buenos Aires have gradually emptied in recent weeks. January being, reversal of the seasons obliges, the equivalent of the French month of August, there is in theory nothing surprising that, like every year, a number of porteños have gone on vacation and have decided to flee the dreaded damp heat that hits the capital at this time of year.
This southern summer is not like the others, however: not only has Argentina, like the rest of the world, not finished with the coronavirus, but the country is going through what the authorities modestly call a “Rebrote” (a resurgence of the epidemic), failing to use the still taboo term of “Second wave”.
The number of new cases has regularly exceeded 10,000 per day since early January, a stage last reached in September and October 2020, during the peak of the first wave. But Argentina tests five times less than France and the numbers are certainly underestimated. If the curve of new cases seems to mark a slight inflection in recent days, deaths, them, are increasing.
It is in this unfavorable context that the summer holidays are in full swing, leave perceived by many as an outlet after a difficult year, marked by long confinement. “I live alone and I normally have a very active social life, I like to go traveling… After this year 2020, I needed a change of scenery”, testifies Carolina Rossi, employee of an advertising agency who chose to spend the end of year celebrations in Mar del Plata, a large city on the Atlantic coast. “I knew it was risky”, admits the 31-year-old Argentina, tested positive for Covid-19 a few days after returning from vacation.
Carolina Rossi is not the only one: the case of an organized trip to Bariloche (in the south of the country) by a private high school in the province of Buenos Aires, of which 43 students out of 45 returned with Covid-19, called out public opinion. Young people and their parents are now the outcasts of their city, which accuses them of having brought the virus from Patagonia.
The authorities, who cannot count on international tourism, which is not currently authorized, are counting on local holidaymakers to revive the country’s economy, already battered by a crisis since 2018, before being brought to its knees by the pandemic . “We have to find a subtle balance between economics and health. The hotel industry was shut down for nine months. Even having a tourist season is already a great relief for hotels and businesses ”, says Juan Ibarguren, secretary for tourism and economic development of Pinamar, a chic seaside resort popular with Argentines.
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