Argentina Supreme Court overrules presidential decree on school closures

FILE PHOTO: A boy arrives at a school, amid a rise in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases , in Buenos Aires, Argentina April 19, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's Supreme Court overruled President Alberto Fernandez's decree to close Buenos Aires schools amid a surge in coronavirus cases, siding with the city government who had sought to keep kids in class.

The Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday said April's presidential decree constituted a violation of the legally-enshrined autonomy of the city of Buenos Aires, which it ruled was the authority in charge of deciding if schools should close.

Fernandez had ordered schools in and around the capital to temporarily close amid a steep second wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths, initially until the end of April and then extended to May 21.

However, the city government in Buenos Aires mounted a legal challenge with the Supreme Court. It has kept elementary schools and kindergartens open, while mandating hybrid in-person and virtual classes at high school level.

The city mayor, opposition party member Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, had argued there were little evidence that in-person classes increased infection rates. The national government said it wanted to reduce circulation to stem the spread of the virus.

Argentina has had over 3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and almost 65,000 deaths. Intensive care wards have been filling up amid the second wave, with three-quarters of beds occupied in and around the capital.

The economy, already in recession before the pandemic, has also been badly hit, stoking poverty levels, while schools were closed for much of last year with tough lockdown measures.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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