SANTIAGO – The government has allowed worship activities in phase 2 of its pandemic plan. Phase 2 comes just before full quarantine. The government’s spokesperson said it’s not scientifically proven that religious services could result in coronavirus clusters.
The new surge in coronavirus infections has led the government to tighten restrictions. Many areas will return to the more strict phase 2 of the Paso a Paso plan. Religious services are normally prohibited in this phase, except during funerals. But on Mar. 12 the Episcopal Conference said in a statement the measures are “incomprehensible and lack rationality,” accusing the government of discrimination.
In response, the government backtracked and authorized religious services indoors and outdoors for a maximum of 20 and 10 attendees, respectively. Government spokesperson Jaime Bellolio told CNN Chile that “I haven’t seen any scientific papers suggesting that coronavirus outbreaks can happen in church or [during] other religious rituals.”
His comments even drew criticism from Chile Vamos ruling coalition member Evópoli. Lawmaker Sebastián Keitel suggested in a since-deleted tweet that the government backtracked “because there are many votes there.”
Los gimnasios son por lejos los lugares (comerciales de uso público) más seguros durante la pandemia, tienen la mejor trazabilidad, mayor preocupación y cuidados. Este gobierno destruyendo fuentes de trabajo y deteriorando aún más la salud física y mental de todos los chilen@s. pic.twitter.com/ZZ0AbF86B6
— Sebastian Keitel (@sekeitel) March 11, 2021
But the World Health Organization has published studies about Covid-19 clusters forming due to indoor worship. And in March 2020, coronavirus outbreaks were reported in San Pedro de la Paz and Osorno, following worship services. A paper published by Nature magazine, citing examples from Hong Kong, also suggested that places of worship should remain closed as they can turn into coronavirus hotspots.
“One Can Disobey the Law”
A video emerged on Mar. 15 showing Magallanes bishop Bernardo Bastres urging churchgoers to “ignore the law.”
Bastres said “it is true that the law says otherwise, but we believe that when the law is unfair and when the law goes against our morals, one can disobey the law. I am saying this responsibly, as bishop and head of the Catholic Church in Magallanes.”
Escuchen lo que dice sobre la ley el obispo Bastres, de Punta Arenas 👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/zuorlD5sc4
— Oscar Contardo (@OscarContardo) March 15, 2021
Health authorities announced interregional checkpoints will be set up between Apr. 1 and 4 to discourage non-essential travel ahead of Easter weekend.
Francisco is finishing his degree in Journalism at Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago.