Coronavirus in Chile NATIONAL

New Strain Slips Through the Cracks

SANTIAGO – On Dec. 29, a more contagious strain of Covid-19 was confirmed in Chile after a Chilean citizen returned home from a trip to Europe. The Ministry of Health’s failure to detect the virus and contact-trace the carrier has been harshly criticized. The new strain originates from the United Kingdom and is considered to be more infectious.

A Chilean woman infected with Covid-19 entered the country on Dec. 21 and traveled to Temuco the next day. A week later, the Ministry of Health confirmed that she had carried a more contagious strain of the virus that originated from the United Kingdom.

All flights from the U.K. to Chile were cancelled on Dec. 20, however the carrier traveled from London to Madrid where she took another flight to Santiago. In addition, although the carrier of the new strain received a PCR test after arriving in Chile, she continued on to Temuco to her place of residence in Panguipulli before receiving the results.

Two days later, on Dec. 23, her PCR test confirmed that she had Covid-19, and subsequent tests showed that she had the new Covid-19 strain, which was announced to the public on Dec. 29. 

Since then, the Ministry of Health has led a campaign to attempt to trace all those who traveled with her. The two flights are:

  • Iberia Flight 6833 from Madrid to Santiago, and
  • Jetsmart 281 from Santiago to Temuco.

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Paula Daza’s Sign

On Dec. 30, Sub-secretary of Health Paula Daza gave a press conference and asked for everyone’s help in finding those who had traveled with the carrier. She also displayed a piece of paper with a handwritten phone number on it.

The paper was mocked and criticized as unprofessional and as showing the Ministry’s lack of preparedness. Many also pointed to the Ministry’ decision to open up international borders, even though various healthcare professionals warned of the dangers.

The event has led to some changes: from now on, any traveler – Chilean or otherwise – must quarantine for 10 days and then have a PCR test; if the test results are negative, the traveler will be free to circulate again.

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