SANTIAGO – More than 1 million residents of the Chilean capital of Santiago emerged from lockdown on Tuesday as Chile’s Health Minister Enrique Paris pointed to a 25 percent reduction in coronavirus cases and deaths during the last 14 days.
Though the Chilean government has declared a national emergency in response to the public health crisis, quarantines and other restrictive measures have been applied at a district level and the country’s approach to re-opening is following the same path.
Seven districts in Santiago that entered quarantine on May 15 embarked Tuesday on what the government calls the “transition” period.
Nearly 200,000 people in two districts of the port city of Valparaiso that had been locked down since June 12 also saw an easing of restrictions.
Residents in transition areas are allowed to leave their homes between dawn and 10:00 pm (when the nationwide curfew takes effect) Monday-through-Friday.
Vehicle traffic in Santiago was up 6.2 percent Tuesday compared with a week ago, according to the transportation ministry. And there was a readily perceptible increase in clients at beauty salons and barber shops.
At his daily press briefing on the pandemic, the health minister touted a “very significant” fall of 25 percent in the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases since July 14.
The proportion of COVID-19 tests coming back positive is 11 percent, “the lowest in the last seven days,” he said.
“The figures are positive; we continue with the step-by-step (liberalization). We want to insist, however, on maintaining the health measures, not dropping our guard and remaining alert to any negative change that compels us to reverse course,” the minister said.
An additional 53 coronavirus deaths were reported on Monday, bringing the total to 9,240, while confirmed infections climbed by 1,876 to 349,800.
But the health ministry acknowledges that as many as 4,183 other fatalities may also be attributable to COVID-19.
Three regions in southern Chile – La Araucania, Los Rios and Aysen – are already in the fourth phase of the five-phase re-opening, which makes them the only areas in the county where bars, restaurants and cinemas are back in operation.
Conversely, quarantines were imposed this week in the northern cities of Coquimbo and La Serena and in Puerto Montt, the unofficial capital of Chilean Patagonia.