In the four months that have passed since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Wuhan, China, knowledge about this disease, caused by a new type of coronavirus, has progressed and the definitions and forms of addressing the pandemic have varied during this period.
In this context, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich announced that, as of yesterday, the way in which cases are reported has changed, with the data being disaggregated.
He explained that the Health Ministry has decided, based on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, to subdivide the number of total cases in which laboratories have confirmed the diagnosis using the CRP method into people with symptoms, in other words who were sick, and people who did not show any symptoms.
“Today this is entirely obvious, but a few weeks ago it was not known that a large number of people infected by this new virus never develop any symptoms. This is particularly the case in young people and children,” said the Minister.
“I would like to give an example of this from today’s report. The total cumulative number of positive cases confirmed by CRP tests as of today is 16,025 people, with or without symptoms,” he said. He added that, in turn, “today there are 888 new cases. Of these, 780 are people who had symptoms and 108 of these new cases did not have any symptoms.”
The reason for differentiating in this way, explained the Minister is “that a case with symptoms puts pressure on the healthcare system in that that person can develop, for example, pneumonia, need a mechanical ventilator and eventually die. Identifying them is of clinical importance.”
People who have been confirmed as having the virus but show no symptoms, he said, “will not create a demand on the healthcare system, but they are of major epidemiological importance. We shouldn’t be surprised to see, over the next few days, more asymptomatic than symptomatic cases, and identifying them will be very important because they are contagious.”
With regard to the COVID-19 ID Card, which will be given out as of next week, the Minister said that it would be given to people who have had the disease, with or without symptoms, and who have tested positive for the virus with CRP, once they have completed their quarantine period.
“This COVID-19 ID Card means that the person has recovered from the disease with a high probability, at least for three months, of not transmitting the disease,” he concluded.
Minister Mañalich also addressed the differences revealed in the daily report of the disease on Wednesday, in regard to the recording and differentiation between symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.
“Introducing these concepts is very difficult. Only over time will we be able to have common knowledge of the disease. New concepts will continue to be introduced and it is highly likely that over the next few days we will add a third variable. As the Advisory Committee has reported, these are patients who had no symptoms, and have not had a positive CRP test, but the presence of antibodies certifies that they have had the disease. The Advisory Committee has recommended that these recovered patients, who have been identified as having had the disease, should under no circumstances be added to the cases, because they are not going to require healthcare and the chance that they are contagious is very low,” he said.
Speaking about the COVID-19 situation in Chile, Public Health Undersecretary Paula Daza announced that 888 new cases have been reported nationwide during the last 24 hours. Of these, 780 are people who tested positive in the CRP test and have symptoms of the virus, while 108 also tested positive but have no symptoms. The total number of people who have been diagnosed to date is 16,023 people.
Of this number, 8,580 have already recovered from the infection, which is 63% of the total. Meanwhile, 7,216 people still have the active virus, which is to say they can still spread the disease.
The Undersecretary said that during the last 24 hours eleven people died. One of them was from the Antofagasta Region, six from the Metropolitan Region, three from the Araucanía Region and one from the Los Lagos Region. They bring the total number of deaths up to 227.
Moving on to the number of hospitalized patients, the Undersecretary said that there are 419 people in intensive care units, 323 of whom are connected to mechanical respirators and 69 are in a critical condition.
She added that as of 9 pm yesterday, 608 mechanical ventilators were available in the healthcare network.
In regard to diagnostic capacity, the Undersecretary stated that yesterday the results came in for 7,898 CRP tests from 65 laboratories and that 180,516 tests have been conducted nationwide.
Crime Prevention Undersecretary Katherine Martorell announced that the number of daily permits provided to people in districts that are subject to quarantine is going to be restricted.
“Some people have abused the permits. This has made it very difficult to supervise and means that the main objective of the quarantine is not being complied with, this being to avoid people leaving their homes in order to reduce the incidence of the disease. As a result, we are now obliged to put restrictions on the individual permits that are now in place.”
These new rules mean that from now on when you apply for a permit “it will only enter into effect 15 minutes later, rather than immediately. This is to stop people applying for a permit by cellphone just prior to a check,” she said.
She added “people in districts that are not in quarantine will be blocked from requesting temporary permits unless they have to go into that area to provide food products and medications to a senior citizen, to visit a prison, to see a doctor or for a health appointment or to carry out a legal procedure that can only be done in that district. No other temporary permit will be provided to people in districts that are not in quarantine to enter districts that are in quarantine.”
Undersecretary Martorell said, “similarly you will not be able to request a permit to pay for utility services at weekends. If you need to request a permit to go to a lawcourt, you will need to attach the court summons to your application at the virtual police station. Otherwise you will not get the permit.”
The Undersecretary added, “it has been established that as of tomorrow, Friday, each person, each ID card number, can only request seven permits in total.”
She continued, “there is just one exception to the seven permits per week rule, which is the case of those children and teenagers or people who have some kind of disorder of the autism spectrum or some similar disorder. But in this case the permit must be requested using the ID number of the person with the autism spectrum disorder and not with the ID number of the person accompanying them. So for those people, the seven day permit rule still applies.”
The Undersecretary concluded, “finally, the Interior Minister has indicated that for all reoffenders, for whom the Public Prosecutor's Office has established a detention control hearing, the Interior Ministry will file charges, seeking the penalties established in article 318 of the penal code, that is between 60 and 540 days in prison. Furthermore, we are going to require fines to be applied, not just those established in the Penal Code but also those in the Sanitary Code, which I would like to remind everyone can be in excess of 50 million Chilean pesos (US$60,000).”