The Chilean government has been enacting harsher measures to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. One of these measures forbids large agglomerations of people. However, a part of Chile’s population is still attending religious services, which has caused the virus to spread even more.
With the coronavirus spreading across the country, the government has taken harsh measures to lower the infection rate. Seven municipalities of the Metropolitan Region are placed under quarantine, sanitary customs are created at the borders of different regions, and large public gatherings with more than fifty people are prohibited.
However, in some regions of the country, citizens are continuing to go to religious services, in direct defiance of the governments orders. This had resulted in two known outbreaks that can be traced directly to infected citizens attending religious services. The Catholic Church is now taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their attendees for the upcoming Easter mass.
Two different contagion points
Two different outbreaks in Chile could be traced back to a religious service. One of them was in the city of San Pedro de La Paz, where at least seven attendees were infected with the virus after an evangelical christian mass. Another fifty people are under observation.
San Pedro de La Paz became the city with the most cases in the Biobío region due to the outbreak. Authorities said that they would be postponing all religious, sports and cultural activities in the city, while the mayor awaits further instructions on how to contain the outbreak from the Ministry of Health’s Regional Secretary, the government official in charge of the Biobío Region.
The second outbreak was in the city of Osorno in the Los Lagos Region, as a result of an evangelical church that continued meeting despite the government’s warnings. This elevated Osorno’s numbers up to eighty confirmed cases. The government has decided to place the city in quarantine, not allowing anyone to leave the city in order to protect the surrounding communities.
In response to these two events, the Minister of Health Jaime Mañalich encouraged the religious community to listen to the government’s advice on how to prevent the spread of the disease. He also told them to prevent ceremonies that could end up being more harmful to the community and that they would take special measures against religious groups that hold events with more than fifty people.
Measures for Easter
With easter coming up, religious leaders are worried about the religious ceremonies that take place during the celebration. Pope Francis already said that he would be holding mass without any public. In Chile, the archbishop of Santiago and the bishop of Valparaíso have cancelled all public activities, opting to celebrate the occasion with a mass that will be transmitted live online.
They both said that they were following the Chilean government and the Vatican’s instructions. The apostolic administrator of Valparaíso, Pedro Ossandón, said that “We reaffirm, as the Diocese of Valparaíso, the need to obey the layout proposed by the Health Minister. This means that temples will remain closed and that the Eucharist celebration will be held without the physical presence of the faithful.”
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.