SANTIAGO – As the number of coronavirus cases in Chile has grown, the Piñera administration has increasingly adopted measures to limit the spread of the virus. Some local governments, however, have criticized the administration for not doing enough. Most point to failures to close public gathering places and cap medical supply prices.
After a day full of protests inside the Constanera Center, Providencia mayor Evelyn Matthei, decided to close down the shopping mall, except for the supermarket and pharmacy that are inside the building — this after she closed down all public parks, making Providencia one of the many communes that have taken the initiative as a result of inaction at the national level.
Aprobamos en el Concejo de @Muni_provi un artículo transitorio para regular horario y cierre del comercio por emergencia sanitaria. Dado esto, el municipio ha decretado el cierre desde mañana del Mall Costanera Center, salvo farmacias y supermercado. Vienen más decretos. pic.twitter.com/LnM2g4a0ct
— Evelyn Matthei (@evelynmatthei) March 17, 2020
Yesterday, Rodolfo Carter, the mayor of La Florida, similarly shut down all parks and shopping malls to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Chile. This resulted in the Minister of Economy saying that “mayors cannot close down shopping malls, only the president can.”
The current administration’s unwillingness to close down the shopping centers have come under heavy criticism, from the mayors and from those who are being forced to work there or risk being fired.
Preparing for the Worst
The government also announced that it would be renting Espacio Riesco, a convention center in Huechuraba, in order to use it as a makeshift hospital to treat the infected. The government estimates that it could set up nearly 3,000 beds there. This would add to the previously-issued number of 39,000 available beds that the private and public healthcare systems have ready for the infected.
Health Minister Jaime Mañalich said that the goal is to be prepared to treat 100,000 patients affected by the coronavirus. Government officials are also evaluating the possibility of renting hotel rooms in order to quarantine people at risk.
Some of these preparations were met with criticisms, like the fact that the government had to pay to use the convention center, and that thus far it has neither rationed nor capped the price for medical supplies that are in desperate need at the moment.
Wall-Mart Chile, on its own, recently started limiting the sales of disinfectant, only allowing five per customer. It also said that more products would be added to that list in order to prevent shortages.
Preparations in the Legislative Branch
The legislative branch said that it would continue working as long as it could, even with some members forced to stay in quarantine. At the moment, Parliament is currently pushing a reform to the Sanitary Code which will allow the government to fix the price of medical supplies. This bill, which is sponsored by politicians from across the political spectrum, is expected to pass on Wednesday and help relieve the more vulnerable families.
The biggest fear in Congress is the dangers of contamination from each other. Senator Isabel Allende of the Socialist Party is currently in preemptive quarantine because she had lung surgery last year. She was joined by Party for Democracy Senator Jorge Soria, who is 83 years old, putting him in the high-risk-to-suffer category, too. Other younger members of Congress were placed in quarantine as a precautionary measure to prevent them from possibly spreading the disease to others if it turns out they have, like Giorgio Jackson, of the Democratic Revolution party, who was placed in quarantine after recently arriving back from a trip to Europe.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.