Coronavirus in Chile

Coronavirus in Chile: Has the Country Overcome the Peak?

SANTIAGO – The Health Ministry reported on Wednesday, July 8, the lowest number in new coronavirus cases in nearly two months. Earlier, Minister Enrique Paris said that there are signs that the situation in the country is improving. Based on the numbers, can Chile now say it has passed the peak?

With the Metropolitan region longer in confinement than cities like Wuhan, China, and New York, United States, and with quarantine measures for over 10 million Chileans (more than half the population), it appears that coronavirus numbers have been declining in the last few days.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported 2,064 new cases, which is the lowest number in 53 days. Another indication the situation might be improving is the number of positive PCR tests. In the last 24 hours, over 10,000 PCR tests were conducted, of which less than 20 percent were positive. At the height of the outbreak, almost half of all PCR tests conducted in the Metropolitan region were positive.

According to Health Minister Enrique Paris, his ministry is preparing a plan “to gradually reopen society, with all possible health precautions and following the recommendations from our experts.” Paris emphasized the health authorities will not rush the decision, considering the risk of new outbreaks. “No action will be taken that will endanger or risk the good news and figures we are seeing today.”

As of now, the Metropolitan region only meets one World Health Organization recommendation that would allow lifting quarantine measures. Within 48 hours, health authorities must be able to trace 90 percent of confirmed cases, and 75 percent of their close contacts. The traceability percentage in the Metropolitan region is currently 75%.

The three other criteria, which are not met by the region, are:

  • Occupied beds in the ICU must be no more 85 percent. Currently, 94 percent of the ICU beds in the region are still occupied.
  • The percentage of PCR tests resulting positive must be less than 10 percent. That number is still about 20 percent.
  • The reproduction number of the virus (the famous R) must be below one for at least 21 days. The R in the region has only been below one for 19 days.

In other parts of Chile, there is better news. In the Los Ríos and Aysén regions in the far south, Minister Paris said that restaurants, bars, cinemas, and theaters are allowed to reopen, at 25 percent of their capacity. The regions have the lowest number of positive cases in the country.

On Tuesday, July 7, the first school on Chile’s mainland opened its doors, albeit a small one: five students at a school with one teacher in Puerto Sánchez, in the Rio Ibáñez district of the Aysén region, were allowed to return to classes with face masks.

 

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