Chile closes capital Santiago again as vaccines fail to quell endemic cases


A woman walks past graffiti that read “Social distancing” during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Santiago, Chile on June 7, 2021. REUTERS / Ivan Alvarado

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SANTIAGO, June 10 (Reuters) – (This June 10 article corrects paragraph 4 to reflect the fact that 15 million are the target population for vaccination, not the general population)

Chilean health authorities on Thursday announced a general lockdown of the capital Santiago following some of the worst numbers of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, despite having fully vaccinated more than half of its population .

The development, which will alarm authorities elsewhere who are debating the speed of reopening as vaccination campaigns accelerate, comes as the number of confirmed daily cases in Chile has risen 17% in the past two weeks to l nationwide and 25% in the metropolitan region which includes Santiago and is home to half of the country’s population.

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Intensive care beds in the capital region are now at 98% of their capacity. Jose Luis Espinoza, president of the National Federation of Nurses Associations of Chile (FENASENF), said its members were “on the verge of collapse”.

Chile has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. About 75% of its 15 million target population have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, and nearly 58% are fully immunized. On a per capita basis among major countries, it is the leader in immunization in the Americas and the fifth highest in the world, according to Reuters data.

It has used nearly 23 million doses of vaccine so far – 17.2 million Sinovac (SVA.O), 4.6 million Pfizer (PFE.N) / BioNTech (22UAy.DE) and less than 1 million each of AstraZeneca and CanSino. (6185.HK)

Vaccines are not 100% effective, medical experts have pointed out, and there is a window of time before they reach their maximum effectiveness. The fatigue of the lockdown and the appearance of more contagious variants are also the cause of the fierce second wave.

Of 7,716 people confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 between Wednesday and Thursday, 73% had not been fully vaccinated and 74% were under 49 years old, the health ministry said.

Dr Cesar Cortes, an emergency doctor at the University of Chile hospital, said people who had stayed at home last year were now more afraid of being out of work.

“Last year the traffic was light and the containment measures were more effective because people were afraid of dying,” he said. “It doesn’t happen now.”

Without its vaccines, Chile’s situation would be much worse, he said.

“The complicated situation we are witnessing now would be catastrophic,” he said.

Chilean health regulator PSI said genome sequencing of infections between December and June confirmed that the Brazilian P1 variant was the most prevalent in the country and “twice as contagious as the original strain. “.

Chile is now embarking on vaccination of adolescents, after offering vaccines to older groups. Two weeks ago, he introduced green cards to give more freedom to those vaccinated in an attempt to encourage suspicious people to come forward.

An infectious disease specialist at a large hospital in Santiago, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak officially, said vaccines could not provide full relief to overburdened hospitals.

“About 10% of people, even vaccinated, will not be protected against serious diseases. Hundreds of thousands of people are going to intensive care, ”he said. “And when our healthcare system is stretched as it is now, that percentage alone is enough to overwhelm them.”

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Reporting by Aislinn Laing and Gabriela Donoso, written by Aislinn Laing and Fabian Cambero; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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