Speaking from the breakwater in the port of Valparaíso, where he provided the nationwide update on the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Jaime Mañalich stated today that “if we do not take the battle for Santiago seriously and fight it energetically, we will lose the war against COVID-19.”
The Minister’s remarks were preceded by the warning that the regional health ministries throughout Chile, and particularly in the Metropolitan Region, “are going to take stronger action in their role of monitoring, fining and closing” in response to failure to comply with the quarantine and physical distancing measures that have been taken to decrease community transmission of COVID-19.
In regard to the directive to provide greater oversight, the Minister stated, “we are enormously concerned about the Metropolitan Region because it represents 81% of the new cases reported. Over the past 24 hours, eight out of every ten new cases that are reported are due to people with symptoms there.”
The Minister explained that the increase is due to the fact that “the strict measures that have been ordered have not been followed.” This is an allusion to the reopening of businesses, failure to use masks and failure to comply with social distancing. He gave as an example a clandestine party that was attended by 400 people and was broken up by police officers.
Minister Mañalich recognized that “appealing to the good will of citizens has not been sufficient in the city of Santiago. We have an imperative duty, and this means we will have to act much more forcefully and energetically in regard to monitoring, closing, fining and transferring people who violate the quarantine measures to healthcare residences.”
“I do not want to mislead anyone. We are going to accentuate the role of the Health Authorities to monitor, penalize, close and fine at a level that we have not previously seen. I am stating this as a precaution so that from now on shops close and people use masks because we are going to be focused on winning the battle in Santiago,” the Health Minister remarked.
He added that, given the presence of asymptomatic individuals who can spread the disease without realizing it and the risky behavior of some people who have the virus, we must “isolate people who can infect others and, based on the number of asymptomatic individuals, behave as if we could all potentially infect others. We must also assume that those around us can infect those who have not had the illness.”
The breakdown of national data on the pandemic was provided by Minister Mañalich, who said, “we are happy that the quarantine is working in the city of Arica and that just one case was reported there yesterday. We are concerned about Tarapacá, which saw a 22% increase in new cases over the past 24 hours. We are also concerned, though slightly less so, about Antofagasta, with an 8% increase in new cases. The Coquimbo Region continues to have few cases and is relatively quiet, and that is true for O’Higgins as well.”
He noted that, “we already have regions that have been successful, where quarantine and oversight by the authorities are having an impact. For example, there was just one case in the Maule Region yesterday, following an outbreak in Talca. Ñuble Region has had 1.2% growth in new cases over the past 24 hours, and the growth rate is just 1% in Biobío, even though we had a relatively significant outbreak there. In Araucanía, there is 1% growth in Temuco and Padre Las Casas, and quarantine has begun for Victoria and Angol.”
“The increase in new cases was just 0.7% in the Los Lagos Region, where the Undersecretary and I delivered mechanical ventilators yesterday. This means that Osorno is clearly winning. Aysén still has no new cases. The city of Punta Arenas, which is where the Magallanes Region’s cases were concentrated, has an increase of 3%, which is a low number compared to what they have had in the past.”
For the daily update on the illness, the Health Minister and Healthcare Networks Undersecretary Arturo Zúñiga traveled to Valparaíso after participating in the opening of the new Gustavo Fricke Hospital in Viña del Mar.
Speaking from Valparaíso, the Minister announced that 1,228 new COVID-19 cases have been reported over the past 24 hours, with 1,112 of these patients reporting symptoms and 116 reporting none. The latest numbers bring the country’s total to 19,663.
He reported that as of 9 pm yesterday, 449 people were in hospital intensive care units, 339 of whom were connected to mechanical ventilators and 69 were in a critical condition.
He further explained that there are 674 ventilators available between Arica in northern Chile and Magallanes in the far south, which can be moved when necessary.
The Minister regretted the deaths of 13 patients yesterday due to the illness, all of them in the Metropolitan Region.
In terms of diagnoses, yesterday the results of 6,818 CRP tests came back from the laboratories, bringing the total to date to 206,218.