Health Minister Jaime Mañalich announced that 342 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 in Chile and that, on the instructions of President Sebastián Piñera, new measures are to be adopted to prevent the spread of the disease.
Starting on Friday, March 20, these include establishing a sanitary customs post that will issue sanitary passports for access by air to the 5 northernmost regions of Chile and another such post will also be established for all land vehicles heading north from Coquimbo. The minister explained that these regions have few cases of the disease (7 in total to date) and so the objective is to guarantee protection and prevent people who are infected from reaching these parts of the country. Another sanitary customs post is to be set up for the Aysén and Magallanes regions.
The decision has also been taken to put Easter Island under quarantine. Anyone who wishes to leave the island may do so, although they will not be allowed to return to the island within 14 days of leaving, unless they have received authorization from the zone administrator.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Alberto Espina explained the role of the Armed Forces as part of the efforts to contain the pandemic following President Piñera’s declaration of a State of Constitutional Exception. The Minister explained that “the Armed Forces will be able to use all their human and material resources in order to help control the spread of Coronavirus. However, every decision regarding sanitary matters that is taken in Chile is taken by the Minister of Health, in line with the President’s instructions.”
He also highlighted that the Armed Forces will help safeguard all of Chile’s land, air and maritime borders, and provide reinforcement for the sanitary customs posts announced by the Health Ministry. They will also help with the transportation of vaccines, while also contributing to ensuring the supply of essential food products and goods.
When asked about a possible quarantine, Minister Espina pointed out that "the obligation of the heads of defense, in coordination with the authorities that exist in each region, is to guarantee compliance", but he was emphatic in pointing out that "any decisions regarding quarantine will be taken by the health authorities, not the Armed Forces.”