Alberto revealed his irritation at the “anti-quarantine militancy” and said that one must prepare for the acute phase of the spread of the coronavirus
“What do I care how long the quarantine lasts if contagion cases quintuple“Perhaps that was the most representative phrase of the moment that the Government is living, and that was expressed in the press conference of the President. Alberto Fernández beside Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Axel Kicillof.
The President He looked irritated at times, when journalists reminded him of the requests for a relaxation on the part of the merchants, the situations of “anguish” on the part of people fed up with the confinement or the statistics that indicate that Argentina will have the longest quarantine on the planet since the pandemic began.
And the truth is that the president maintained some coherence with respect to what his previous communications had been. Two weeks ago he had explained that the criterion by which it could be determined that the city and the province of Buenos Aires passed “phase 4” of quarantine -That is, relative normalization in economic activity- was that the rate of duplication of infections slowed down to the point of occurring every 25 days.
Very far from that goal, both in the city and in the suburbs, in just 14 days daily infections they are now almost five times more than at that press conference.
From that point of view, there should be no possible controversy. And yet, both Alberto Fernández and the head of the Buenos Aires government and the Buenosairean governor verified that, even with the forcefulness of these numbers, each time they must invest more communication effort to justify the need to maintain confinement.
“What causes anguish, to save oneself, to be asked to take care of yourself? Does it not generate more anguish to get sick?” Replied the president, without hiding the irritation of feeling that he had to explain the obvious.
Pro quarantine statistics
And the reiteration of the justification is an eloquent symptom of the problem facing the government: it is becoming difficult the battle of public opinion. Because while it is true that the polls They continue to confirm support for the strict health policy, it is also true that the desperation of the most affected sectors is making itself known in an increasingly explicit way.
For example, in the days before the presidential address, there were merchants who demonstrated in large cities such as Córdoba and Mar del Plata.
In addition, there were intense confrontations between communicators, who are recreating the “crack” in groups that militate, respectively, quarantine or flexibilization, and which reached its climax in the attacks received by the journalist. Nicolas Wiñazki –Insulted for asking on the TN screen to meet his niece- or in criticism of the epidemiologist Pedro Cahn, a member of the president’s advisory committee, who protested “it is hard for me to understand the anti-quarantine militancy, to explain what the alternative is.”
And, by the way, the profusion of political analysis continued in the sense that the government “fell in love with the quarantine,” an argument that suggests that the president overreacted the sanitary toughness to compensate for the shortcomings in other levels of management, such as economy. It is one of the criticisms that most annoys Alberto, who was full of numbers to respond to the accusation.
There was the usual comparison with Latin American countries that are going through the acute phase of the pandemic, such as Chile or Brazil. But, above all, there were the economic numbers. In part, the president’s point is that quarantine is not only decreed by the government, but by the consumers themselves, that even in those shops that are enabled to function, they substantially reduced their level of consumption.
The “raconto” on industrial plants that have been urgently converted to produce contagion protection implements or that have been able to reopen by applying health protocols – such as the automaker Volkswagen – tried to respond to criticism of an alleged government indifference to economic paralysis .
And regarding assistance to the unemployed, he explained that six of the nine million Argentines listed for the Emergency Family Income (IFE) they had already received their first payment of 10,000 pesos – two months after having been entered in the list of beneficiaries – or that half of the self-employed had already received their credit at zero rate.
The president himself tacitly admitted the difficulty of managing this aid with a somewhat strange argument: that it was only because of the pandemic that the magnitude of the informality of the Argentine economy was discovered.
The battle of public opinion
But, above all, the president made it clear that he is clear that his greatest difficulty these days is sustaining the support of a middle class in the big urban centers that is beginning to question whether the harshness and length of the quarantine are justified. Because it is true that there are neighbors who are doing worse, but comments are also circulating about nearby cases such as Uruguay, where classes will resume next week.
That battle for public opinion is, from now on, the center of the political effort. And Alberto responded to the criticism with the forcefulness of the medical data. In other words, that the worst is just beginning.
His defense was very eloquent when he said that analysts can write based on speculation, but those who have the obligation to govern have the responsibility to care for the population based on reality data.
So he praised opposition governors. AND Rodríguez Larreta reciprocated by confirming the dramatic tone. He showed that, although the numbers are particularly serious in the emergency villasIn no way can the population of the middle-class neighborhoods relax and think that the problem is alien to them, because the contagion increases they cover the entire city.
Rodríguez Larreta argued that although they are the focus, the villas are not the only areas of contagion growth.
AND Kicillof, who cannot resist the temptation to criticize the “heavy inheritance” received from Maria Eugenia Vidal regarding hospital infrastructure, pointed in the same direction to justify the adoption of more restrictive measures for mobility in the suburbs.
And he left a reflection that synthesizes the message in defense of the quarantine: 28 days until winter comes. Both from the statistical projections of infections and from the European experience, there is a certain tendency to think that in the winter season it is when countries reach the acute moment of the spread of the coronavirus.
And Kicillof recalled that a year ago, without a pandemic, the health infrastructure in the suburbs was already collapsed by the seasonal increase in hospitalizations caused by pneumonia, influenza and the typical contagious diseases in the winter.
Definitely, the official argument it is clear and forceful: “winter is coming”, and with it sufferings are coming that will make the criticisms that are made today of the anguish caused by the home confinement seem banal and frivolous.
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