Santiago de Chile woke up on Saturday in total containment, a measure ordered by the government after a jump in new cases of coronavirus and the number of daily deaths in recent days. The management of the authorities gives rise to strong criticism.
The number of contagions has soared and alerts have been heard in Chilean society. Especially among citizens and institutions who have been constantly asking for more extreme measures and a total quarantine in the country for two months, refusing to believe the official speech that the situation was under control.
On Wednesday, May 13, the shock was enormous at the announcement by the Minister of Health, Jaime Mañalich of 2,660 new cases, an outbreak of 60% in 24 hours. Until last week, the South American country registered 350 to 500 new cases per day. The number of daily deaths has doubled in two days, from 11 Wednesday to 26 Friday. Chile currently has nearly 40,000 cases and deplores 394 deaths.
The hospital system is reaching its limits in places: if the intensive care beds have an occupancy rate of 78% at the national level, the figures vary, according to the zones, between 84% and 94% for the metropolitan region of the capital Santiago, where around 7 million of the country’s 18 million inhabitants live. Local media reports show ambulances having to wait several hours before patients are taken care of. The seriousness of the situation has led the authorities to transfer patients to different regions of the country.
Another cause for concern for locals is the announcement that the PCR tests will be stopped by the network of private clinics. The stocks are exhausted and the laboratories, overworked, no longer manage to analyze the samples taken.
The gravity of the situation has led the government to adopt the most restrictive measure since the announcement of the first Covid-19 case on the territory on March 3: the total containment of the Santiago region, which came into force on the night of Friday to Saturday. It is initially planned for a period of one week. A curfew has also been declared across the country starting at 10 p.m. Almost 15,000 police and military personnel will be responsible for enforcing the containment.
A lesson for government
“Tonight we are entering the hardest stage, where the greatest solidarity, the greatest control of each other is needed. Please use the mask, do not go out in this situation”, launched the Minister of Health on Friday. “It is the responsibility of everyone and also of society to ensure that the population respects the containment measures,” he added.
The containment measures hitherto depended on the decisions adopted by the various municipalities of this metropolitan region. And in some neighborhoods, containment measures were applied very early. In the streets and ranks of the opposition, voices are raised to criticize the president, Sebastian Piñera. Against the backdrop of the unprecedented social explosion in thirty years of democracy that Chile has experienced in recent months: a wave of demonstrations demanding more social equality and more state.
“Lack of mutual trust has played a bad trick on us,” Minister Mañalich admitted to La Tercera newspaper on Thursday, as coronavirus numbers were racing: “Tell people they need to trust what their says the state, it’s very difficult. ”
It is also a lesson for the government, which was optimistic when the numbers seemed to improve in late April. President Piñera and several mayors had then given signs of resumption of economic activity, with the reopening of shopping centers and the return to work of civil servants.
Experts had called for caution, considering it premature to declare victory as the epidemic began to affect the poorest and most populated areas of Santiago. Starting with Izkia Siches, president of the College of Physicians, who calls for “a change in the management of this pandemic”. In an interview with Bio Bio radio, she believes that the recommendations made by health professionals are not taken into account. “We cannot keep talking to a wall,” she said.
The situation is all the more worrying due to the geography of Santiago, surrounded by mountains, and the approaching of the southern winter. Because respiratory diseases traditionally cause the public health system to overflow between June and September.