Chile's government is struggling to control a coronavirus outbreak that could revive mass social unrest as its hospital system comes under increasing pressure. With a population of 18 million, Chile is reporting new Covid-19 cases at a pace comparable to that of Spain at the peak of the virus' spread in March, on a per capita basis, and resources are close to maxed out in Latin America's wealthiest economy.
Adding to the public health crisis, the situation has highlighted the inequality and poor public services that drove millions of protesters to the streets last October. In Santiago, the nation's capital, 95% of intensive care beds are occupied, and hospital patients are being airlifted to other parts of the country. The country witnessed a record jump of nearly 5,000 confirmed cases on Monday, with another rise of nearly 4,000 on Tuesday.
That came on the back of a surge in infections last week, which prompted the government to order the lockdown of Santiago, the main focus of the pandemic in Chile. The Senate was also closed after three senators tested positive for the coronavirus. Sessions were held by video conference. The latest model projections by the University of Washington see deaths rising to nearly 12,000 in Chile by August.
President Sebastian Piñera unveiled a national agreement to strengthen five factors identified as central to successfully emerging from the epidemic, such as health, welfare, household earnings, economic recovery and a fiscal framework.
We are convinced that fighting to protect the health and lives of our compatriots, protect workers' jobs, household incomes, the survival of companies, and to reactivate our economy and our capacity to get back on our feet... deserves a great national agreement, Mr Piñera told reporters.