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Past peak? Chile raises hopes vaccines, lockdowns are turning tide against COVID-19

Thu 15th April, 2021 9:48pm
By Fabian Cambero and Reuters TV
    SANTIAGO, April 15 (Reuters) - Chile's health authorities
said on Thursday they believed a dip in the record case numbers
the Andean nation has seen over the past week represents a
"stabilization" of a second COVID-19 wave thanks to strict
lockdowns and a rapid vaccination program that has fully
innoculated a third of the population.
    Health minister Enrique Paris told reporters he hoped the
9,000 record daily cases reached last week represented the peak
of the latest outbreak.
    "Once we reach that peak, we expect not a reduction but a
stabilization and then a return to smaller numbers of positive
patients," he said. 
    Chile has now vaccinated 50% of its 15 million-strong target
population with at least one dose of the Pfizer or
Sinovac-developed drugs, and given 32.7% two doses, Paris said.
    He said stricter lockdowns now covering more than 80% of the
country, coupled with public awareness campaigns, should allow
Chile to hold elections on May 15 to pick constituents to draft
a new constitution as well as local government officials. The
election was postponed from April. 
    Chile's experience of the pandemic is being watched
anxiously by many beyond its borders to see how much its
vaccination campaign - one of the world's fastest and most
extensive to date - will mitigate successive waves of the virus.
    On Friday, it will become one of the first countries in the
world to release "real world" data showing how effective the
vaccines have been in reducing contagion, serious illness and
    Health experts remain divided on whether the lockdowns and
vaccines will be enough to curb the second wave imminently or
whether fresh strains of the virus, limited vaccine efficiency
and citizen defiance of sanitary measures will continue to drive
the numbers higher.
    Paula Daza, the country's top public health official, said
the vaccines were already reducing contagion rates and hospital
admissions of older groups who were innoculated first.   
    "People under 50 represent 65% of confirmed (COVID-19) cases
and 41% of those being hospitalized," she said. 
    Claudia Reyes, a 38-year-old ICU nurse at Santiago's
Workers' Hospital, said they had seen an "exponential" increase
in cases of largely younger patients. 
    She said fatigue or indifference to the lockdowns was
evident among the general population, despite daily broadcasts
about the severity of the second wave. 
    "There are so many people on the streets, on public
transport," she said. "It feels like last year the population
was better contained but this time, regardless of the COVID
situation, that there are fewer or no hospital beds left,
people's awareness is not in keeping with the reality."     

 (Reporting by Aislinn Laing
Editing by Alistair Bell)
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