The dramatic move comes as hospitals warn of near saturation, with younger, middle-aged victims, after a spike in cases in recent weeks.
Chile has signed agreements in advance with vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and Sinovac, and has already vaccinated more than 35% of its population, ranking third on the list of immunizations per capita in the world, according to a Reuters count.
But a second wave of the pandemic hit the country before it reached the target of herd immunity, scheduled for July.
On Thursday, the country reported 7,830 new cases of the virus, the highest mark in a single day, reaching a total of 1,003,406 infections since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The total number of cases led Chile to postpone the elections that would take place on April 11 and resulted in accusations by health experts that the government allowed the triumph of its vaccination program to contaminate the official message, causing the population to drop the guard – a claim that was outraged by the Minister of Health, Enrique Paris.
Movement restrictions have been rapidly increased, and more than 80% of the country’s 19 million people are now on lockdown to ease pressure on intensive care units, which are already close to collapse.
On Thursday, officials announced the closure of the South American country’s border for a month starting Monday, for both Chileans and foreign residents, with exceptions only in case of emergencies. No foreign tourist can enter the country.
The authorities have also intensified movement limitations within Chile, prohibiting the purchase and delivery of non-essential products such as toys, clothing or electronics, reducing movement permits to a small group of essential workers: mainly health professionals and supermarket workers. – and restricting authorizations for people to leave their homes.
Government spokesman Jaime Bellolio begged all Chileans to take the rules seriously.
“It is now that we can save lives, that we need to take extreme care,” he said. “This is a national mission, each of us has a duty to our family group and those close to us to underscore the urgency of being responsible now, today. Tomorrow may be too late.”
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