SANTIAGO – Over 1,500 people have died from Covid-19 in Chile according to official reports. On Saturday, health authorities added that there are over 120,000 confirmed cases in the country. Experts, however, expect the actual Covid-19 death rate to be higher.
Chile registered on Saturday 93 new deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the official total to 1,541. The country is still nowhere near the peak, as daily records are repeatedly shattered. Despite quarantine measures in the Metropolitan region, several other regions in the country have also started to register record highs in terms of new confirmed cases.
The Antofagasta and Tarapacá regions in the north, the Valparaíso region in central Chile, and the Bíobío and La Arauacanía regions in the south are all reporting sharp increases in new cases, suggesting that dynamic or regional quarantine measures are not enough to contain the virus.
To cope with the large influx of patients in the Metropolitan region, where most public hospitals are reporting a lack of capacity to treat critical patients, the government installed last week over 100 new ICU beds in the Central Post, 40 with ventilators to treat those with severe respirational problems.
Worldwide, Chile is now one of the countries with the steepest rise in new cases in the last weeks. The country already has more confirmed cases than countries with bigger populations, such as Canada and Mexico. In terms of confirmed infection rate per capita, Chile leads South America. In terms of performed tests, only Peru has tested more per capita than Chile in South America.
Questioning the Death Rate
Experts, however, state that the actual death rate is higher than reported by authorities. In the Metropolitan region, all cemeteries are reporting increased deaths, although most people brought in do not have Covid-19 listed as their cause of death; instead, “respiratory problems” is listed.
It could be that people who die at home from the coronavirus don’t get tested postmortem, as journalist Alejandra Matus highlighted in her interview with Chile Today. According to Matus, people don’t list Covid-19 on death certificates of deceased family if they die at home, because life insurance companies don’t pay out during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, other investigations have shown that numerous deaths have been classified as suspected Covid-19 deaths, but have not been accounted for in the Coronavirus update. The investigation used May 25 as an example: the Ministry of Health listed 806 deaths as a result of the virus, while the national registry listed 869.
Earlier this week, the government announced it will change their methodology to count Covid-19-related deaths. The change consists of including all the decedents whose deaths had been labeled suspicious and who were awaiting the results of Covid-19 tests. Previously, the decedents were tested and not considered Covid-19 casualties until the result of the tests, which could be anywhere from 48 hours to a week later. After the methodology changed, daily death numbers increased rapidly.
In all hospitals in the central regions of Chile, experts say that the coming weeks will be critical to the effort to keep the death rate as low as possible. With temperatures dropping as winter settles in and the annual flu season on its way, the “Battle of Santiago” is far from over.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.