SANTIAGO — After 143 days under strict quarantine measures, the district of Santiago has started the transition phase. In the first couple of hours authorities had to close a mall as hundreds gathered inside without following social distancing rules. Referring to the incident, the mayor of Santiago said “human stupidity has been superior.”
The districts of Santiago Centro and Estación Central in the Metropolitan Region started the transition phase after a 143-day quarantine, one of the longest in the world. But shortly after the mobility restrictions were lifted on Monday, the Asia Pacífico mall had to be shut down again as hundreds of customers queued inside the compound without the ability to abide by social distancing rules.
According to the mayor of Santiago, Felipe Alessandri, many said they went shopping because of the “irresistible sales” offered by the shop Tu Outlet. But Alessandri insisted that with liberty also comes responsibility, adding that “human stupidity has been superior.”
Tu Outlet owner Isabel Zúñiga, however, said according to news outlet Biobío Chile, that the agglomerations resulted from people wanting to buy products they could sell. “They are independent workers … desperate to buy products they can sell, desperate to work.”
Zúñiga said she had all sanitary measures in place to open her store. She said clients had made appointments through Facebook so that the number of customers inside her store was under control. She contradicted Alessandri by adding that “our prices are always the same.”
#Chile: Hours after a lockdown for the area was eased, hundreds crowded into Santiago's Mall Chino shopping center.
Authorities had to close it down again. pic.twitter.com/Gj2a571PsR
— Benjamin Alvarez (@BenjAlvarez1) August 17, 2020
Sanitary Summary Initiated for Mall
The governor of the Metropolitan Region, Felipe Guevara, also showed up at the mall – together with the regional Health Secretary, Paula Labra, to close the place. Labra said that a sanitary summary was opened and the mall was risking a fine of up to CLP$50 million ( US$60,000).
The Economy Ministry’s commerce protocol specifies that inside shops or malls a distance of at least 1m between persons must be respected. Guevara said that since the protocol was not followed, the mall was in no condition to operate. He urged people not to abuse the liberty they gained with the lifting of mobility restrictions. “If we abuse it, it is very likely that the districts will regress (to confinement),” he told local media.
More agglomerations were registered in Estación Central and other districts. Queues were spotted in front of Pension Fund Administrators (AFP), outside banks, and the Meiggs neighborhood, where school supplies are sold. Compared to Aug. 10, Santiago Centro saw an increase of 11 percent in mobility, while Estación Central saw an increase of 14 percent.
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant