Chile Relaxes Restrictions for the Vaccinated as Covid Cases Drop
(Bloomberg) -- Chile will loosen restrictions against the coronavirus for residents who are fully vaccinated as new cases plunge and the government expands one of the world’s fastest inoculation programs.
Starting July 15, capacity rules for establishments like gyms and restaurants in districts that aren’t under quarantine will be relaxed for people with two doses, according to a government statement on Thursday. The nightly curfew will be shortened depending on virus and vaccination metrics, and schools will be able to open for on-site classes even in neighborhoods under strict lockdown.
Chile is making headway in controlling an outbreak that swamped hospitals and prompted authorities to temporarily reimpose a citywide lockdown in Santiago. Cases have dropped by 39% in the past 14 days, and the Health Ministry has expanded inoculations to include teenagers. Still, deaths have been slower to fall, and the government has said the delta virus strain is a concern.
The objective of the changes is to “adjust our plans to the new reality, and better balance the protection of health and life with greater levels of liberty and mobility for people, and also greater opportunity for institutions and businesses to function,” President Sebastian Pinera said during a televised press conference.
The South American nation has delivered two vaccine doses to over 57% of its population, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. That’s much more than neighbors such as Brazil and Argentina, as well as richer countries including the U.S. and the U.K.
Virus testing and tracing will be strengthened, and police inspections will be toughened to clamp down on social events that break maximum capacity rules, according to the statement. Screening will be boosted at Chile’s international borders, which are closed to tourists but open to citizens and residents.
Last month, Chile’s congress extended a state of emergency through September. The measure grants authorities the power to close borders and declare both lockdowns and nightly curfews to help curb the virus spread.
Pinera’s administration has faced criticism from the medical community for relaxing restrictions too quickly, first in late 2020 and then in May. At both points, looser limits on movement and commerce were followed by a surge in cases. Even so, his coalition members have demanded a roll-back in measures.
Chile is far from the only country battling to rein in the pandemic during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. Colombia surpassed 100,000 deaths amid a slow vaccine roll-out and social unrest, while Brazil recorded a record daily case count on June 23.
In Chile, the virus waves have led to greater scrutiny of the vaccine from Sinovac Biotech Ltd., which accounts for the majority of shots in the country. Health Ministry officials have said it’s safe and effective, while adding that studies are underway to determine the possible need for a third dose.
In his remarks on Thursday, Pinera reiterated that Chile has already secured third vaccine doses if they are deemed necessary.
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