Argentine Armed Forces Join the Fight Against Coronavirus
By Eduardo Szklarz / Diálogo April 02, 2020
The Argentine Armed Forces have joined national prevention efforts against coronavirus to confront a potential infection peak. The Ministry of Defense ordered the creation of 14 Joint Emergency Zone Commands and 10 task forces nationwide.
Service members will provide logistics support to security forces, conduct humanitarian assistance activities, distribute food, and provide health care to the population.
“We have the entire capacity of the Armed Forces and their 90,000 men ready to take part, in different ways, in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” Argentine Minister of Defense Agustín Rossi told the press.
On March 24, Rossi ordered all 15 military hospitals in the country to be ready to deal with a possible health emergency. Retired personnel up to 60 years old who are not in an at-risk group may be called to serve, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Air Force and Army helicopters patrol the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, where 70 percent of the cases are concentrated, to alert security forces about violations of the mandatory quarantine the government decreed. While the majority of the population has complied with the president’s orders to stay home, many citizens have violated the order – a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Army deploys hospital
The Argentine Army set up a Mobile Military Hospital (HMR, in Spanish) in the town of Campo de Mayo, in Buenos Aires province, to increase health care services. The HMR has tents and units that provide first aid, surgery, and hospitalization. The Air Force will also deploy its HMR, which was fundamental with support efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
The Military Tailoring department, which usually makes uniforms, began to produce masks (which are scarce in pharmacies) and sheets for surgical centers. In addition, the Armed Forces Joint Pharmaceutical Lab doubled its production of alcohol-based gel, another scarce item, to 660 gallons a week.
Since the pandemic was declared, service members have also been cooperating to bring home the nearly 30,000 Argentines that remain stranded abroad. On March 21, two Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft flew to Peru to repatriate 140 Argentine citizens and return 140 Peruvian nationals that were in Argentina.
Navy delivers food
Personnel of the Southern Naval Area delivered food to Ushuaia residents, on the southernmost tip of Argentina, in an operation organized by the 14th Emergency Zone Command. The military distributed 800 bags of food in community kitchens and houses to ensure social distancing, the Navy said in a statement.
As a preventive measure against COVID-19, the ARA Islas Malvinas ship has anchored prior to entering Puerto Belgrano Naval Base. The crew, which just finished the Combined Naval Antarctic Patrol with the Chilean Navy, wants to make sure they are not a source of infection.
The Armed Forces are also providing logistics support to the Gendarmerie, which patrols border areas. The governor of Salta province, Gustavo Sáenz, urged President Alberto Fernández to also authorize service members to participate in monitoring the “nearly 30 illegal border crossings” on the Bolivian border to prevent the virus from entering.
“The Gendarmerie does not have enough human resources due to the border’s length,” said Sáenz in a YouTube video. “Mr. President, we need the Army in the streets. We need the Army on the borders to ensure that no one enters the country.”