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Argentina has instituted strict restrictions on shopping and leisure activities as the South American country tries to stave off a new wave of coronavirus infections, the presidential office said on Thursday.

President Alberto Fernández pleaded with the people of Argentina to make a concerted effort to reduce their movements with the aim of reducing infections and alleviating pressure on the health system.

“We are living through the worst time since the start of the pandemic,” said Fernández. As of Thursday, more than 35,000 coronavirus infections were reported for the third day in a row in Argentina.

“You know that I travel the country and you also know that I know the enormous difficulties that we are going through,” said the president. “We have the highest number of cases and deaths.”

Officials said movement would be restricted in high-risk areas of the country until May 30.

All social, educational, religious and sporting activities would be suspended, the president said in a televised message from Casa Rosado, his official residence.

After May 31, pandemic measures would return to their current level of 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and social, recreational and commercial activities prohibited in confined spaces.

Shoppers line up outside a greengrocer in Buenos Aires’ Belgrano district © Sarah Pabst / Bloomberg

Fernández has pledged to step up vaccination efforts in which more than 10 million doses have been administered, according to government data. Only 2 m are fully vaccinated.

Argentina, with a population of over 45 million, has recorded 3.4 million cases, including 72,699 deaths.

However, the country will now be the sole host of the Copa America, a football tournament due to start next month, after the ruling regional body withdrew Colombia as a co-host due to social unrest.

It would have been the first Copa America organized by two countries, but the street protests have accelerated against Iván Duque, Colombian president.

Previously, Colombian authorities had asked Conmebol, the regional football body, to postpone the tournament due to the pandemic.

The Copa America is scheduled to be played from June 13 to July 10. Colombia’s matches will be moved to venues in Argentina, Conmebol said.

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