This morning, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich announced during his daily report on COVID-19 in Chile that a study conducted in California found that for each known case of coronavirus, there are over 35 people who contracted the illness and have defenses and antibodies despite the fact that they have not shown any symptoms.
In this regard, the Minister said, “we are talking about a completely different epidemiological situation to the one that began to emerge when the outbreak started in China. It suggests that the illness is much less lethal than we had thought.”
The Minister reported that the COVID-19 Advisory Committee, which comprises epidemiologists and health and infectious disease experts, has proposed new guidelines and definitions for establishing suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 for consideration by the Ministry.
Minister Mañalich explained that they propose three types of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases:
1. A suspected case is one in which the patient presents the following symptoms: A fever above 37.8°C without any other clear cause and/or suggestive signs, such as muscle aches, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain, fatigue, cyanosis –lack of oxygen that causes the ears or fingers to turn bluish-, diarrhea and wheezing. Additional symptoms include acute changes in the patient’s sense of taste or smell.
2. A confirmed case is one in which some of the aforementioned symptoms are present and the patient receives a positive CRP result or has a chest x-ray showing characteristics that are internationally standardized as typical of the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
A confirmed case also includes that of someone who has developed the symptoms described and has a positive serological test of IgM/IgG antibodies.
3. In regard to individuals who have acquired the illness but do not present symptoms, the committee of experts “recommends that we create a different category. These should not be called cases, but rather infected patients,” the Health Minister explained.
However, Minister Mañalich stated that this is an issue that “we have to work on and arrive at an international agreement. We need a consensus through the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine exactly what we should call these cases and the epidemiological value that they have so that the matter is not handled differently from country to country.”
Finally, the Minister cited the experts’ report, which states that “the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (IgG/lgM) in the blood confirms that the person has been infected with the virus. The infection may have occurred between 5 to 7 days and one month before seropositivity. Seropositivity suggests that the person will be protected against COVID-19, though the effectiveness and duration of this protection is still not known.”
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is in its eighth week in Chile, Public Health Undersecretary Paula Daza spoke about the epidemiological situation, saying that a total of 13,813 cases have been reported nationwide, 482 of them yesterday.
Of these, 7,327 have recovered from the infection - 53% of the total - and 6,288 people are active, that is, they can still spread the illness.
The Health Ministry regretted the deaths of nine people from the illness over the past 24 hours. Four of those who died were from the Metropolitan Region, three were from Araucanía and the last two were from the Maule and Magallanes regions, respectively. This brings the number of fatal victims in Chile to 198.
In regard to hospitalized patients, Healthcare Networks Undersecretary Arturo Zúñiga stated that 426 people are in intensive care units, of whom 325 are on mechanical respirators and 81 are in a critical condition.
The Undersecretary said that as of this morning, there were 592 respirators available, including the 72 that arrived in Chile on Saturday and were received by President Sebastián Piñera.
In regard to diagnostic capacity, he said that yesterday the results came in for 5,260 CRP tests and that 161,235 tests have been conducted nationally, 8% of which were positive.
During the report, Public Health Undersecretary Paula Daza stated that the cordons sanitaires established in cities with a higher incidence of cases will be reinforced over the May 1 holiday weekend in order to prevent the population from traveling.
“Today we have a series of measures in place, such as a directive indicating that people cannot travel to their second homes. However, from 6 pm on Thursday until 10 pm on Sunday, a cordon sanitaire will be established in the greater metropolitan areas of Santiago and Concepción,” Undersecretary Daza stated.
When asked about the increase in cases in the Antofagasta Region over the past few days, the official explained that there has been an outbreak in Mejillones, but that measures have been taken to contain the propagation of the virus.
“One of them is the increase in tests, so that we can investigate suspected cases in a timely manner,” the Undersecretary said. She added that the second measure that the Regional Health Secretariat has taken “is for anyone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 to be taken to a health residence,” along with those who have had close contact with them.
In regard to the increase in cases in Puente Alto, the Undersecretary said that the western section of the municipality is now under quarantine and that the increase in cases is mainly linked to the local prison.