SANTIAGO – After a quarantine that in some Santiago districts lasted longer than in Wuhan, authorities have started lifting restrictions in parts of the capital. Today, over one million people in Santiago, primarily in higher income districts, are allowed to venture out again. A welcome relief to some, reintroduction of the dynamic quarantines is being criticized by others.
After more than two months in quarantine, seven districts in the Metropolitan region and San Antonio and San Felipe in the Valparaíso region are lifting restrictions. Over one million people in Las Condes, Vitacura, Lo Barnechea, La Reina, Ñuñoa, Tiltil, and Colina are allowed to leave their homes because their districts have satisfied the conditions to move up one step, according to the government’s “Step by Step” plan for reopening.
According to the second step of the plan, people are allowed outside again. Public spaces, such as parks and squares, are open and semi-essential businesses such as hairdressers and mechanics are allowed to reopen as well. All these places must maintain social distancing measures. On weekends, however, step one quarantine measures still apply.
Criticism of the Partial Reopening
The “Step by Step” plan from the government, which seeks a gradual lifting of quarantine measures in municipalities and districts that comply with certain conditions, has been criticized by several organizations and experts. President of the Medical College Izkia Siches said that going back to dynamic quarantines, as the government did in the beginning, is not the solution. “We would have preferred to wait for a slightly more improved situation, ideally in the whole province, both because of communication – other districts already see a large movement of people – and also because mobility between the same districts is quite significant,” she said.
The National Association of Fiscal Employees (ANEF) also expressed its concerns. The organization referred to the earlier plan from the government, which sought a return of public workers during the pandemic. “What is at stake should not be numbers, nor neoliberal motives, but the lives of people.”
The National Federation of Nurses’ Associations of Chile (Fenasenf), which represents more than 6,000 nurses from the country’s public hospitals, also said the “Step by Step” plan is not according to recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). “We consider this a partial plan, which only includes indications from the authorities at the central level, without considering the different regional or community realities,” they said. “The plan gives general instructions and lacks specific protocols that clarify implementation to the community. A big question is how the common spaces in the schools (bathrooms, dining rooms, among others) will be managed, to avoid outbreaks after the return of classes.”