A health worker conducts coronavirus tests at a homeless shelter in Montevideo, Uruguay on February 4. Matilde Campodonico / AP

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou announced new restrictive measures that will apply until April 12 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Public offices will be closed except essential services and face-to-face learning for all levels of education will also be suspended. Clubs, gyms, amateur sports, public shows, parties, and social events will also be suspended, and restaurants and bars will close at midnight. “Free shops” on the border with Brazil, duty-free shops where Brazilians shop in order to resell in their cities, will also be closed.

“If the free shops are a center (for risks), we close them,” said Uruguay’s president at a press conference on Tuesday evening.

Uruguay’s neighbor Brazil is one of the most severely affected by the pandemic in the world. The intensive care units are congested, cases are rising, and some essential medical supplies are running low. It has the second highest number of cases of viruses and deaths exceeded only by the United States.

The president also said the number of ICU beds in the country will be increased by 35 additional beds for the private sector, 10 for the military hospital and 84 for the public sector.

“Stay in your bladder, stay with your close family,” said Lacalle.

Uruguay set a record for new cases and deaths on Monday with 2,700 new cases and 19 new deaths. In addition, the health authorities announced on Monday that 24 cases of the Brazilian P.1 variant had been found in the country. The country also set a record on the same day for the number of active cases – 14,418 and a record for the number of people in intensive care – 188.

On Tuesday, the country recorded 1,801 new cases of the virus for a total of 86,007 cases since the pandemic began, according to the country’s health ministry. In addition, 16 more virus-related deaths were recorded on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll to 827.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) highlighted an increase in cases in Uruguay at its weekly press conference on Tuesday. PAHO director Dr. Carissa Etienne said Uruguay had reported more than 1,000 cases a day several times over the past few weeks, “which is alarming given the size of the country.”

The current population of Uruguay is 3,482,469 as of March 24, 2021, based on Worldometer working out the latest United Nations data.