Argentina on Friday imposed a countrywide lockdown as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
The country will remain under lockdown until at least March 31, President Alberto Fernandez said in a statement posted on Twitter Thursday night.
"I have just decreed social, preventive and compulsory isolation for the entire population. An exceptional decision at an exceptional moment," Fernandez said.
The president stressed the decision was taken because the pandemic spreads rapidly across the world and it is "the most serious health problem."
"After listening to the experts, the political forces, and the governors, I decided to: Restrict circulation. Everyone will stay in their own house. No one has to panic," he said.
Transfers will only be allowed for exceptional reasons, in addition to circulation that continue to guarantee essential production, supply, health services and all essential services, according to the statement.
Public transportation will also be maintained for those who are exempt from complying with the regulations.
Security forces will patrol streets to ensure no one leaves home unnecessarily.
"We will discourage people from getting into automobiles and driving on public roads [...] Whoever cannot justify it will be sanctioned," the president said.
Last week, Argentina stepped up measures to stem the spread of coronavirus, extending the health emergency for one year and imposing a flight ban from the most affected countries.
In Argentina, three people died from COVID-19, while there are 128 confirmed cases, according to figures compiled by John Hopkins University in the U.S.
The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December, has spread to at least 160 countries and regions around the globe, killing over 10,000 people as of Friday, while the tally of confirmed cases exceeded 244,500.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a “global pandemic.”