Top Argentina court rules against government in Covid row

Argentina’s supreme court on Tuesday ruled in favor of the city of Buenos Aires in a dispute with the federal government over the suspension of school classes.

Last month, President Alberto Fernandez ordered schools in the capital and its surroundings to close as part of measures to combat the latest wave of coronavirus infections.

But the city’s mayor, opposition figure Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, went to court to prevent this from happening.

Four out of the five supreme court judges ruled that Fernandez’s decree violated the capital’s autonomy.

“The City of Buenos Aires and its provinces can manage the opening of classes… prioritizing the opening and resumption of in-person classes,” said the court.

The fifth judge abstained, considering the issue beyond the court’s jurisdiction.

Fernandez said he was “saddened” by the ruling, adding that he would “take care of Argentines’ health no matter how many pages of rulings they (judges) write.”

The center-left president announced on April 18 a raft of measures, including a two-week suspension of classes, aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 in the capital.

On Friday he extended those measures, including a nighttime curfew, for a further three weeks.

Meanwhile, Vice President Cristina Kirchner questioned the court’s decision and pointed out that the judges met by video conference.

While waiting for the court’s decision, center-right mayor Rodriguez Larreta decided that pre-school and primary classes would remain open and secondary schools would use a mix of virtual and in-person lessons.

However, teachers unions went on strike.

The coronavirus measures seem to have been working in Buenos Aires, which has managed to halt the increase in daily cases, although without lowering them.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Argentina has recorded more than three million cases and almost 65,000 deaths among its population of 45 million people.

In Buenos Aires, intensive care units are operating at 82 percent capacity.