SANTIAGO – With more than 1,500 confirmed cases in 24 hours, Chile broke a record on Thursday, May 7. A large majority of the new cases were registered in the Metropolitan Region, where starting Friday five million residents of Santiago will be quarantined. Health authorities insist the current peak was predicted but reiterated that those not following measures will be heavily sanctioned.
More than two months after Chile registered its first official Covid-19 case, the number of cases in the country has increased drastically. In one week, Chile has registered 8,558 cases, nearly 30 percent of the total cases since the start of the outbreak. Number are especially skyrocketing in the Metropolitan Region. On Friday, May 8, 12 districts will be put on lockdown, with another 13 already under quarantine measures.
Cerro Navia, Conchalí, La Cisterna, La Florida, La Granja, Lo Espejo, Lo Prado, Macul, Peñalolén, Renca, San Joaquín, and San Miguel are all lower-middle class parts of the Chilean capital. The already-quarantined parts of the city – Santiago, San Bernardo, San Ramón, Puente Alto, Quinta Normal, Cerrillos, Recoleta, Independencia, Estación Central, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, Quilicura, La Pintana, and El Bosque – are also districts where socioeconomic circumstances are below the national average, according to government statistics.
The coronavirus in Chile has moved from the upper-class neighborhoods, where residents were treated in modern clinics, to downtown districts, where hospitals are on the brink of collapse. Not only the situation surrounding the health system in these parts of Santiago seems dire: many residents in these affected areas belong to the 30 percent of the Chilean population who are active in the informal sector. No work means no income, and the inequality gap in Chile that the coronavirus outbreak is exposing is likely to deepen due to an increase of poverty over job and income loss.
According to Health Sub-Secretary Paula Daza, Chile is entering the already predicted peak. In light of what authorities continue to call “the Battle of Santiago,” she said those who do not obey quarantine measures will face heavy sanctions. The Ministry of Health was proud to announce that in the last 24 hours only four people died of the coronavirus, the lowest number since Apr. 15. The real test lies ahead, however, with the current high numbers concentrated in areas with a very challenged health system. For Chile, it is now about finding a solution: will these vulnerable parts of the capital survive the battle, or will they once again become victims of their reality?
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.