SANTIAGO — Chile is the ninth country globally with most cases of Covid-19, five months after the coronavirus pandemic hit. The Metropolitan region has been the most affected, reaching 264,222 cases and 8,023 deaths. Within this region, the districts with the most deaths are Puente Alto, La Florida, and Maipú, three of the poorest districts in Santiago.
Chile is not only among the world’s top 10 with the most registered cases of Covid-19, but also among the top 15 with the most deaths caused by the virus. The country now has 380,034 cases and 10,299 deaths. Concentrating around seven million inhabitants, the Metropolitan region is the worst-hit with 264,222 cases and 8,023 deaths.
According to the 41st Epidemiological Report of the epidemiology department, published on Aug. 9, the three districts with the highest numbers of deaths in Chile are in the Metropolitan region: Puente Alto, La Florida and Maipú, which also count as poor/lower-middle class districts.
Puente Alto has reported 567 deaths, La Florida 468, and Maipú 381. These districts are also among the ones that have registered the highest number of infections, Puente Alto being the worst-hit with 23,065 cases.
Poverty And Covid-19 Deaths
The epidemiological report reflected the socio-economic inequalities in the districts and social segments of society that millions protested during the recent uprising.
According to the 2017 national census, Puente Alto is the most populous district in the country, followed by Maipú, and La Florida being number four. Population density could be linked to high death rates in these districts but poverty also plays a role. According to government data on multidimensional poverty, Puente Alto leads with 23.3%. Next is Maipú with 13.2%, and La Florida with 19%.
Inequality Reflected In Medical Facilities
Although things are improving, in May, the head of Hospital El Carmen’s intensive care unit admitted that the facility was on the verge of collapse. “We don’t have ICU beds, we don’t have ventilators, we have reached our capacity,” he told broadcaster Canal 13.
The public healthcare system has been understaffed for years and hospitals are overcrowded. Hospital El Carmen in Maipú and Hospital Sótero del Río in Puente Alto were among the most crowded at the peak of the crisis.
Even though hospitals have seen a decrease in patients, as cases have fallen in the past few weeks, the distinct realities of public and private medical centers are still obvious. Research by investigative collective Ciper found that Covid-19 mortality rates were five times higher in public hospitals than in private clinics.
Edited by Claudio Moraga
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