SANTIAGO – The Chilean Health Ministry published on Saturday, June 20, its weekly report by its Department of Statistics. According to that report, written following the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 3,000 more dead whose cause of death is suspected to be Covid-19. The results of their tests are still pending, but with those numbers added the total death count in Chile would surpass 7,000.
With the arrival of new Health Minister Enrique Paris, the ministry in Chile changed its methodology for publishing new coronavirus cases and deaths again. At daily press conferences, the authorities report only those cases and deaths whose test results confirm the presence of Covid-19. This methodology goes against the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which states that suspected Covid-19 cases should also be included in daily counts.
The Department of Statistics (DEIS) of the Health Ministry, however, does register all suspected cases and deaths, and has been doing so since the very beginning of the outbreak. They publish their findings in weekly reports and on the press conference on Saturday they released their weekly report for the first time in public. According to the report, there are 3,069 people who are suspected to have died of Covid-19. Their test results are still pending, but the DEIS includes them in the total death count, which, as a result, climbs to 7,144.
The head of the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Department, Rafael Araos, called the number provisional, and due to possible errors Araos explained why the ministry does not report the number in its daily reports. “Our methodology is different. We are making a giant effort to publish a daily number that reflects reality the best way possible.”
Over the last few weeks, the Chilean Health Ministry has received fierce criticism over its constant changing methodology. Former Health Minister Jaime Mañalich was accused of keeping the death rate in Chile artificially low by not including suspected deaths. An investigation from website CIPER, showing that the ministry had another, not publicly released register of deaths which was sent every week to the WHO, meant the end of Mañalich as Health Minister.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.