Chilean authorities have confirmed Thursday the detection of the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant. It was a 43-year-old woman who arrived from the United States and who is now under isolation in the southern city of Talca.
Health Minister Enrique Paris said during a parliamentary appearance that the patient arrived in Chile with a negative PCR test, so it is assumed that she was infected at the US airport from where she travelled.
Both she and her family are currently under observation. The woman travelled to her home town after completing the mandatory five-day quarantine for travellers in Santiago.
Chile has closed its borders since April for tourists, nationals and foreign residents, except for emergency trips.
Paris explained that the variant that first emerged in India, which has already been detected in neighbouring countries such as Peru and Argentina, was very contagious, very powerful and may call for an increased hospitalization capacity.
Chile has recorded over 1.52 million cases and 31,746 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The country, one of the most prolific vaccinators in the region, has been going through a second wave since March, which has reportedly put the health care system on the verge of collapse, leading to the renewal of mandatory lockdowns in the entire capital.
More than 80% of Chileans (15.2 of the 19 million inhabitants) have already been reached by the ongoing vaccination campaign. The vaccine made by the Chinese laboratory Sinovac is the one that is mostly applied in Chile, followed by Pfizer-BioNTech, which is more effective in preventing contacts and has been shown to be effective against the Delta variant, like AstraZeneca.
The delta variant is becoming the dominant version of the disease worldwide and already circulates in at least 92 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has warned this week against the relaxation of prevention measures.
The announcement of the arrival of the Delta variant in Chile took place during the first day of discussion in Parliament of the extension of the state of emergency due to catastrophe, requested by the government and that allows to decree quarantines, curfews and border closures.
Several parliamentarians, both from the opposition and the ruling party have already expressed their doubts about extending the measure, which has been in force since March 2020 and expires on June 30.