The government of Chile Thursday decided to tighten the anti-covid-19 measures already in force after 64 cases of the British strain and 45 of the Brazilian ones were detected out of a total of 7,023 new daily cases of coronavirus were reported.
Starting this coming Saturday, mandatory lockdowns are to be imposed on a total 198 communes, particularly those in the Santiago Metropolitan region, affecting around 16 million people, which is tantamount to 86% of the country's population.
We are all part of the country, we all have responsibilities to fulfill with respect to the pandemic and more than ever we must take care of ourselves because when one takes care of oneself, one takes care of others and prevents the spread of the virus, Health Minister Enrique Paris said as the new measures were being announced.
Asked why the government deemed lockdowns necessary given that in other parts of the world they have not proved to be as effective as it was once believed they would, Paris replied that indeed, we are concerned about the efficiency of quarantines, but we think it is too early to evaluate.
The decision was reached after the Covid Committee convened for several hours at La Moneda to assess the critical situation of ICU occupation already at 95%. The capacity for growth is not infinite, Health Undersecretary Alberto Dougnac explained, as 122 new covid deaths were confirmed, bringing the total number of fatalities to 22,524 since the beginning of the pandemic.
The new comunas to observe lockdowns include Alhue, Colina, Conchalí, Huechuraba. Lampa, Las Condes, Lo Barnechea, Paine, Providencia, Quilicura, Recoleta, San José de Maipo, Tiltil and Vitacura. Some of them were already transitioning towards full confinement, which has now been decreed.
The decision came two weeks before the Constitutional Assembly elections, which will result in the appointment of delegates to reform the present Constitution from 1980, written during the military ruling of General Augusto Pinochet.
New measures for travelers either Chilean or foreign arriving from abroad were also announced Thursday. As of March 31, all passengers are to stay at a transit hotel for 5 days, take a PCR test as well as cover all the expenses of the process. Those who pass the test shall need to undergo 5 days of additional quarantine at their place of residence. But if the test comes out positive, patients are to be transferred to a health care facility. Santiago's international airport shall be the only point of entry into the country.
This is not the time for tourism, hopefully we can postpone trips that are not strictly necessary, explained Minister Secretary General Jaime Bellolio, who added flights were not going to be suspended because Chile is a democratic country and we cannot prevent the entry and exit of travelers.
Bellolio, acting as a spokesperson for the presidential La Moneda palace, stressed that the new measures were taken because we are in an exceptional situation and in order to prevent the spread of new strains of Covid-19 such as the Brazilian and British variants.
According to the Transport Ministry the flow of vehicles through Santiago's Metropolitan Region had decreased by 14.28%, compared to last Thursday, and 34.53%, if contrasted with March 5, 2020.
”The quarantine in the Metropolitan region begins today and it is very difficult to assess the decrease in mobility yet. And as we add a new number of comunas that begin on Saturday at 5 (a.m.), we have to wait a little longer to see the changes in mobility, Paris explained.
Asked about the likelihood of postponing the April 10-11 elections, Paris said that such a decision was up to the President and to the Legislative branch. Our main concern is that the protocols are complied with during the voting days,” he added. Fourthermore, he admitted he foresaw no decision in that regard for the near future but a final call will depend on the spreading of the Sars-Cov-2 virus.