Chilean President Sebastian Pinera is under growing pressure to announce a national quarantine by opposition leaders, medical experts and local mayors, who have launched their own measures to try to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
A total of 56 mayors from central Chile on Friday wrote an open letter to Pinera declaring that since quarantine had proved to be the most effective way of containing the virus in other countries, Chile “must not delay” in following suit.
Some mayors have gone so far as to send municipal security vehicles to patrol neighborhoods with loudspeakers urging people to report anyone with symptoms leaving their homes.
Fuad Chahin, the centrist Christian Democrat party president, said with Chile now at 434 known cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness since the start of the month, Pinera should follow neighboring Argentina’s example with a”total and immediate quarantine.”
Pinera also came under fire from the head of the National College of Surgeons, Izkia Siches, who said without clear leadership, local authorities would inevitably make their own plans. “Measures have been lacking and the president is not engaging in dialogue,” she said.
Pinera’s administration is already reeling from five months of intense social protests over inequality, which battered Chile’s infrastructure and economy and saw his popularity plummet to the lowest levels of any president since the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship ended in 1990.
On Friday afternoon, Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel said the government had already taken measures – including the closure of cinemas, restaurants, bars and clubs on Friday – and would take more.
“The main thing is to adopt them when they are most effective to protect the population,” he said.