Coronavirus in Chile

Chile Had First Covid-19 Cases Weeks Before First Official Case, Report Proves

SANTIAGO – There were at least 13 cases of Covid-19 in Chile weeks before the first official case was reported. This is according to a Ministry of Health report obtained by daily La Tercera. The first official case in Chile was reported on Mar. 3.

Weeks before Chilean Health Minister Jaime Mañalich reported the first official case of Covid-19 on Mar. 3 – a woman from Talca who had returned from traveling in Asia – the coronavirus that causes it, SARS-CoV-2 already had a foothold in Chile. According to a report from the Ministry of Health, obtained by Chilean newspaper La Tercera, there were already 13 people with symptoms of Covid-19 in Chile during the month of February, from the north (Calama) to the center (Nuñoa and Linares) to the south (Concepción, Talcahuano, and Punta Arenas).

The new cases come to light after the Ministry of Health changed its methodology for registering new cases in mid-April. The government is now reporting according to the date symptoms appear, and not the date a positive diagnosis in the form of a PCR test confirms a new case. Working backwards, epidemiologists conducting field studies found that already in February there were people showing symptoms. Earlier than the Chilean authorities thought, the coronavirus was already spreading throughout Chile’s regions.

Quarantine in Chile Update

Late February Already in Santiago

In the Metropolitan region, where, as of the date of this article, over 80 percent of all Chilean Covid-19 cases are registered, in the last week of February, people in Santiago, La Reina, Ñuñoa, Pudahuel, and San Bernardo were all getting treatment in local hospitals with symptoms; and, a week before that, people in Las Condes and Vitacura were already getting registered with symptoms, just as in the northern city of Calama.

The health report shows the reality of the Covid-19 in Chile, as the virus is likely to be more widespread than officially acknowledged by the government. With large groups of people not showing any symptoms and with authorities taking relatively flexible measures, people can carry the virus without being aware. Similar investigations were carried out in the US, France and Italy, where doctors found that the virus had already set foot in a country a month before governments reported about it.

The need for nationwide testing of the entire population, as recommended by health experts, becomes more evident; and, thus, “the Battle of Santiago,” as declared by Health Minister Jaime Mañalich, might in reality be “the Battle of Chile.”

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