Chile Locks Down Santiago With Cases Near Pandemic Worst

Chile’s government will impose a full lockdown in the city of Santiago and neighboring districts as it tries to slow down the spread of a new wave of Covid-19 in the country.

The lockdown will begin Saturday and includes 14 districts that had not been shut down yet, Health Ministry officials announced in a televised press conference. Santiago’s Metropolitan Region is home to more than 7 million residents, or almost 40% of the country’s population.

Chile Locks Down Santiago With Cases Near Pandemic Worst

About 75% of the country’s population of roughly 19 million are already under full lockdown, which has not yet helped to slow down the spread. The government also reported that 7,023 new cases were detected Wednesday, the second highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. PCR test positivity is at almost 10%, up from about 4.1% in November.

“We are experiencing a worrying situation, and we are concerned as a health authority and as a government,” Health Minister Enrique Paris said. “We ask the inhabitants of Chile to share in this concern.”

The government announced a new $6 billion emergency aid plan earlier this week. The administration made pledges including new job subsidies, improved unemployment insurance and more virus testing to help citizens weather the pandemic wave.

Chile has been vaccinating its population much faster than all other countries in Latin America, with more than 6 million inoculated. However, Paris said herd immunity won’t be reached before June, and that any positive effect from vaccines in terms of containing the virus spread will only be seen by mid-April.

Chile Locks Down Santiago With Cases Near Pandemic Worst

Cases of the U.K. and Brazilian Covid-19 variants have been discovered in Chile, and the government said it will toughen travel restrictions. All people entering the country will have to stay at transit hotels for five days at their own cost, and then complete five more days of quarantine.

Any traveler who tests positive before that will have to stay at sanitary residences, government-run housing where people infected with the virus can isolate themselves from others and recover.

Chile’s benchmark S&P IPSA index extended losses after the announcement, and closed with a 1.5% drop.

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