SANTIAGO – On Mar. 18, President Sebastián Piñera declared a State of Catastrophe due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will begin at midnight and last 90 days. This announcement comes after the Ministry of Health registered 37 new cases since yesterday, pushing the total to 238.
As Chile enters phase four of the pandemic, President Piñera declared a State of Catastrophe in order to contain the spread of the disease. This comes after 37 new cases of the virus were confirmed just since yesterday, pushing the national total up to 238, with eight in critical condition. At the moment, there have been no reported deaths.
In his declaration, Piñera said that since early January, with news of the first cases in Wuhan, China, his administration has been creating an action plan to combat the pandemic. This plan contemplated the declaration of a state of catastrophe in order to properly prepare the country for the next stages of the pandemic.
He ended his short announcement by asking for people to remain calm. He reassured citizens that this is a part of the plan that was created by the government and that together the country will be able to protect their health.
State of Catastrophe: What is it?
The declaration of a State of Catastrophe is one of the four designated States of Constitutional Exemption (EEC), that are mentioned in the current Chilean Constitution. The other three are State of Emergency, which is declared when there is a severe danger to the nation’s security; State of Assembly, which is related to an external war;, and State of Siege, which is declared in the event of a civil war.
What differentiates the State of Catastrophe from the other three EECs, is how it is announced and its possible duration. The president has to be the one to declare it and it can last for a year. The legislative branch, however, can vote it down if they find it meritless. Lastly, the government has to specify the zone where the State of Catastrophe will take place and designate a chief of national defense in charge. In this case, the zone is the entire country.
During this period, the government will be able to restrict mobility, limit the liberty of assembly, and alter the right to property. In the current situation, the government will use the armed forces to enforce these measures. Among other things, they will be using these powers to maintain people in quarantine and social isolation, protect the distribution chain in order to prevent food and supply shortages, protect the borders, and help the movement of medical personnel.