March 21, 2020

Government and mayors agree to create COVID Roundtable to address the health emergency

Government and mayors agree to create COVID Roundtable to address the health emergency
The announcement came after Health Minister Jaime Mañalich, Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel and President Sebastián Piñera met with the mayors of Puente Alto, Gérman Codina; Estación Central, Rodrigo Delgado; and Padre Hurtado, José Miguel Arellano.

During the meeting, the Health Minister announced the creation of the COVID-19 Roundtable. He also explained the different stages of public health measures, which are designed to isolate, separate and decrease the likelihood of one person transmitting the disease to another.

Progressive quarantine

In regard to this point, Minister Jaime Mañalich said, “the mayors must clarify what they really want. I’ve tried to understand what they mean by a total quarantine and I have a feeling that there is not a clear understanding.”

The minister stated that he does not believe this is the right time to this measure because it would entail a number of complications. “It means introducing curfew.  The only way to effectively close a city is to deploy soldiers in the streets and detain people who do not follow the rules. It also entails all of the health risks associated with removing trash, distributing food and medications and vaccination campaigns, which we really need to move forward with, as we have been doing so far.”

The Minister explained that during the first level, the public is asked to stay at home and restaurants, bars, movie theaters and malls will be closed, which was implemented nationwide today.  The second involves sanitary customs posts, where people have to pass through a checkpoint so that officials can decide whether they can enter the area based on their medical condition.  This measure is being implemented in 42 locations in eight regions of Chile as of today.

He added that the next stage consists of a cordon sanitaire, “which means that no one other than residents can enter or leave a municipality, city or neighborhood, which is what we did in Caleta Tortel to prevent the infection from leaving and entering that location.”

However, he noted that the last resort is the closure of a city, municipality or country.  In order to execute such a decision and enforce it, “that means a 24-hour curfew in the coming months, because there is no indication that the epidemiological situation will improve in the coming weeks.”

He added that they have not ruled out the possibility that such a decision will have to be made, but in order to be able to implement it, “there must be very sophisticated plans because we would have to feed people, find a way to vaccinate the sick, look at the provision of health supplies, and helping the bed-ridden or those with limited mobility who need help with daily life tasks.”  The Health Minister therefore believes it is necessary to define the terms and concepts to be discussed and evaluated as part of the new roundtable in order to coordinate the measures that will be taken as the virus spreads in Chile.