By Agence France-Presse
Chile’s new health minister announced Sunday that the country’s official death toll will include suspected cases, which could double the current figure.
Enrique Paris also said that quarantine measures in the Santiago metropolitan region would be extended “at least through June” after Chile recorded nearly 7,000 new cases in the last 24 hours.
The Chilean government will add “the probable deaths” from the coronavirus to the epidemiological report that is published twice a week, Paris, a pediatrician and toxicologist, told a press conference.
Later Sunday, in an interview with the newspaper La Tercera, Paris said that “in June comes the worst, I think. Or very bad.”
“The first two weeks of July, I think we’re going to keep the numbers up,” he said. “I think that only in August, God willing, will we see the efforts of the quarantine rewarded, if people comply with them.”
Paris took office Saturday after his predecessor Jaime Manalich resigned amid controversy over Chile’s official coronavirus death toll.
The government has said publicly that the crisis has claimed more than 3,000 lives since the first case emerged in Chile on March 3.
However, a report published Saturday by an investigative journalism organization called CIPER revealed that Chile had informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that the death toll was actually more than 5,000.
Sunday’s official report added 6,938 new infections and 222 deaths, bringing the total to 174,293 infected and 3,323 dead.
Infections have risen steadily in Chile even though it began taking emergency measures in February — including widespread testing and the closure of borders and schools — making it one of the first Latin American countries to do so.
The capital Santiago and its seven million people were placed under lockdown more than a month ago. They were joined on Friday by the cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.
Nearly half of Chile’s population of 18 million is now under strict confinement.
The country initially had imposed selective quarantines on areas with high incidence of the coronavirus.
But many poorer Chileans continued going to work — out of economic necessity — and a sharp resurgence in mid-May forced the government to order a strict lockdown.