SANTIAGO – President Piñera on Monday announced new measures in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Chile. The country has 155 confirmed patients and enters phase 4, Piñera said. This means that all borders will close on Wednesday.
After a sharp rise in Covid-19 patients was confirmed by the Health Ministry in Chile, the government took more drastic measures to tackle the crisis in the country. In a press conference on Monday, the president announced all borders (maritime, terrestrial, aerial) will be closed on Wednesday. Chileans and foreigners in Chile will have to go in quarantine for 14 days if they visited countries with high numbers of contagions before. The measures will last at least 14 days.
Ever since the coronavirus was branded a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), countries around the world have increasingly scrambled to get a handle on the virus, imposing travel, gathering, and other restrictions to try to “flatten the curve” — slow the spread of the virus to manageable proportions that won’t overwhelm their healthcare systems.
Coronavirus in Chile: Efforts to Flatten the Curve
The number of patients in Chile is increasing rapidly. On Sunday, there were 75 confirmed cases, and on Monday that number already grew to 155. As a result, President Sebastián Piñera is wearing out the carpet at La Moneda (the presidential palace) with repeated trips to the podium to brief the press and the public. Sunday’s announced measures were already historic:
Classes are suspended for two weeks in kindergartens and in municipal schools, subsidized schools, and privates schools. This started today, Monday, Mar. 16. Additional measures will also be put into place to facilitate remote education, the role out of the flu vaccine that was previously scheduled for March, and food service and other services for affected students in need.
2. Older adults
Starting today, Monday, Mar. 16, and for the next 30 days: visits to “long-stay establishments” (e.g., long-term care facilities, retirement homes, etc.) for the elderly are prohibited, except as strictly necessary; hygiene and isolation measures inside these establishments will also be strengthened. The operation of all day centers and other facilities for older adults in the country is also suspended.
To protect the health of older adults in prison, the government will send Congress a bill to allow the following prisoners to switch to house arrest: (1) prisoners age 75 and older, and (2) prisoners who have less than a year left to serve their sentence and who are between the ages of 65 and 74. (This bill excludes those convicted of serious crimes, human rights violations, and violations against humanity.) Measures will also be taken to restrict the number and frequency of visitors to prisons, and there will be greater sanitary control for the entry of all people to prisons.
4. Children in SENAME homes
All National Minors’ Services (SENAME) homes will be quarantined, only those who are strictly necessary and indispensable will enter, and strict sanitary control measures will be adopted.
5. Public events
The maximum number of people who can participate in public events is reduced from 500 to 50 people. This measure will take effect Wednesday, Mar. 18.
Hygiene measures in the metro and urban and intercity buses will be strengthened.
Starting yesterday, and until Sept. 30, landings in all Chilean passenger cruise ports are prohibited.
8. Influenza Vaccination
Given the severity shown by influenza during the Northern Hemisphere winter, the influenza vaccination campaign is anticipated for today, Monday, Mar. 16, and will last two months. The campaign aims to vaccinate 8 million people, and especially high-risk groups such as children, the elderly, pregnant women, the chronically ill, and health officials.
Given the geometric progression of the virus, it is a safe bet there will be more trips to the podium and more severe measures in coming days.
Robert Travis grew up in San Francisco, California, and moved to Santiago, Chile, in July 2018. In addition to editing and writing for Chile Today, he practices law from afar with Travis & Travis. He’s thrilled to be living in the same hemisphere as “the world’s longest left,” Playa Chicama.