The village of Colchane and the island of Juan Fernández are worried about their supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic. Colchane previously received its supplies from Bolivia, while Juan Fernández relied on the mainland. There is a move afoot to help these communities, but, due to the pandemic’s economic disruption, it could be awhile before they receive help.
To prevent the spread of Covid-19 to smaller towns with less resources the government has decided to limit movement around the country. This includes operating health checkpoints at the borders between regions and completely closing international borders.
These measures have stemmed but not stopped the flow of people, as the recent Easter weekend showed, when over 20,000 cars crossed the checkpoints set up around the Metropolitan region and others simply took private helicopters or planes to circumvent the checkpoints altogether.
A notable side effect of these restrictions is on towns and small islands that depend on outside help for necessities like electricity or water.
The village of Colchane is located near the Chile-Bolivia border, and it is desperate for help. The town ordinarily receives most of its supplies from Bolivia, but due to the closure of the border it no longer has any food or gas, and the latter is essential because the village’s electricity is generator dependent.
Mayor Javier García said that the supplies they have are going to run out some time this month. He further added, “There is a lack of political will, with electricity we could provide computers to the children and install refrigerators to store food.”
The village’s situation was exacerbated by the hundreds of Bolivians who were suddenly stuck in the village while waiting for permission to return to their home country – the unexpectedly high influx of people only further accelerated the consumption of what little resources the town has left.
The governor of the Tarapacá region assured the mayor that the government was working on adding the village in to the electric grid while analyzing ways to properly fix the gas and food supply issue.
Meanwhile, the representatives of the Tarapacá region, Renzo Trisotti of the UDI party and Hugo Gutiérrez of the Communist party, agreed that it is imperative that the problems be solved immediately but lamented that the region did not have enough resources to do so.
Juan Fernández Island
On the other far side of the country, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Juan Fernández island faces a similar problem. It has limited resources and is too isolated to treat sick residents. That is why it is in complete lockdown. Not even residents are allowed to return. Nearly 50 are stuck on the mainland.
The lockdown has also meant a complete halt to every economic and educational activity on the island. The mayor defended his actions, saying, “if we have one infected we all die.” The Island has only one respirator and two doctors for the 900 people who live there, and no way to send test samples to the mainland.
As of this writing, the island is waiting for a supply boat at the end of the month. This boat will bring much-needed fuel that will help generate electricity. Meanwhile, the islanders will have to continue rationing energy, which means cutting off the power during the mandatory national curfew.
Another worry for the island is what will happen with the products it normally ships out. For example, since December, the island has not been able to export its lobsters catch.