In an effort to control flights into the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina has banned all commercial flight ticket sales until September 1. 

The decision, which was announced on Monday, is the strictest travel ban in the Americas. President Alberto Fernandez's administration says those who ignore the restrictions will be fined. 

"The problem was that airlines were selling tickets without having authorization to travel to Argentine soil," a spokesman for president Fernandez told various media outlets.  

The new regulations, which have been backed by Argentina's National Civil Aviation Administration, will not apply to flights bringing citizens back into the country or flights of cargo. According to Reuters, South Amerian countries like Colombia, Peru and Ecuador have temporarily banned commercial flights, but none as prolonged as Argentina. 

Currently, Argentina has over 4,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and nearly 200 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The country has been on lockdown since March 20 with the government recently expanding its quarantine to May 10. 

Neighboring country Chile has over 13,000 reported cases and nearly 200 deaths, while Uruguay has under 1,000 cases and 15 deaths. 

Unsurprisingly, the airline industry has voiced opposition to Argentina's new policy. ALTA (Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association) which represents a number of Caribbean and Latin American airlines warns of the "serious financial challenges" Argentine airports would face in the wake of the changes. 

"We understand the complex situation that the government is faced with and that its number one priority is to guarantee the health and safety of the population," an ALTA press release reads. "However, we see it as our responsibility to express the industry’s deep concern regarding this resolution, especially since no consultation process took place. 

"...We are faced with an extremely complex scenario, in which airlines still need to cover about 50% of their fixed costs, while not generating any income. Unfortunately, many companies in the sector will not be able to survive if this resolution is implemented as planned. Therefore, we reiterate our call for a timely dialogue with the relevant authorities in order to ensure the survival of the sector, in support of the country’s overall socio-economic well being."

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