How Chile Ended Up With One Of The Highest COVID-19 Rates

It's a wealthy nation with a robust health care system. So why does Chile have one of the highest coronavirus infection rates per capita of any country in the world?

7/2/2020 9:24:00 PM

Chile is a wealthy nation with a robust health care system. So how has the coronavirus spread so quickly there since May? The short answer, according to some experts: social inequity.

It's a wealthy nation with a robust health care system. So why does Chile have one of the highest coronavirus infection rates per capita of any country in the world?

Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Imagestoggle captionMarcelo Hernandez/Getty ImagesA nurse protests Chile's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The country now has the highest per capita infection rate of any major country — 13,000 cases for every 1 million people.

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Marcelo Hernandez/Getty ImagesChile looked as if it were well prepared to deal with the new coronavirus.It's a rich country — classified as high income by the World Bank. Life expectancy is roughly 80 years — better than the United States'. It has a solid, modern health care system, and when the outbreak began spreading, officials made sure they had plenty of ventilators and intensive care beds at the ready.

But the virus exploited the cracks in Chilean society. The country now has the highest per capita infection rate of any major country — 13,000 cases for every 1 million people. That's more than 10 times the rate in neighboring Argentina and twice the rate in Brazil.

Like many well-to-do countries, Chile saw its first cases of COVID-19 among its elite — people who'd recently traveled to Europe and the United States. That was in April. The government quickly rolled out a plan to provide testing and treatment. Health officials quarantined hard-hit neighborhoods. Residents had to apply for a pass online before they could go out of their homes even to buy groceries. In late April, things were going so well that Chile was starting to talk about reopening.

"And then May started bringing more cases and more cases. Currently we have, in my opinion, more cases than we are able to handle," says Thomas Leisewitz, a physician in Santiago. Leisewitz is a professor atPontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

and heads up strategic development at Red de Salud UC Christus, a nonprofit Catholic health care network.Since May, the number of cases has been rising steadily, with the country recording at one time 5,000 to 6,000 new cases a day in June. The virus spread out of the affluent parts of Santiago to low-income neighborhoods where many residents don't have the luxury of being able to work from home.

And the high numbers are not just a reflection of an efficient testing infrastructure. Chile's per capita testing rate is lower than most European nations' and almost half the rate in the United States.So how did this particular virus come to spread incredibly rapidly in wealthy, well-prepared Chile?

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Andrea Insunza, a journalist in Santiago, says the reason is something unrelated to the virus itself. That something is social inequity."In Chile, there are two countries," says Insunza, who runs the center for investigative journalism at Universidad Diego Portales."There's a country for people like me. I have a good education. I have a good salary, and all my social security is privatized."

By this she means she has access to high-quality private hospitals and clinics.But there's another Chile."And that Chile is poor and you depend on the public health [system]," says Insunza.Last October, violent street protests erupted in Santiago over a fare hike on the subway of 30 pesos, or less than 5 U.S. cents.

The protests became about far more than the price of a subway ride. Chile is one of the most unequal countries in Latin America, according to theWorld Bank. The elite, the top 10%, controls more than half the country's wealth. And while extreme poverty has been driven down significantly over the last decade, the social unrest in October centered on the frustrations of lower- and middle-class Chileans who view their economic opportunities as unfairly limited.

Insunza says part of the frustration is driven by the elite often not even seeming to recognize their privileged lifestyles."Santiago, it's a very segregated place," Insunza says."You can actually live your whole life and don't see poverty. Never."

Chile's initial plan to deal with the coronavirus outbreak — which at first affected mainly the elite in Santiago — failed to recognize that the affluent have maids, gardeners and cooks who might also get infected.The country's response went well in those early weeks. Case numbers were holding steady. The fatality rate was low.

Then the virus started spreading in lower-income neighborhoods and quickly got out of control. Read more: NPR »

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Social and economic equality is a world issue of which simply becoming cognicent of its treachery will not be sufficient. Changes must be made to prolong our history. For the most part the public system isn’t too bad. At least everyone has access to something. Right now the swankier private clinics have increased beds for Covid patients from the public system. It’s more complex than what’s been presented:

Do they drink vinegar ? It is bad every where but they should handle better. So as an aspiring American ex pat Chile seems pretty safe for me According to the Left is because of Social Inequity, Social Justice and Savage Capitalism ... talking about a Virus coming from CHINA ! give me break guys... enough with the Communism man !

A robusto health care system that works ONLY for the rich. That's the answer... Some experts find social inequalities or racism everywhere they look. It’s amazing. Imaginary Bill Gates virus propaganda The real reason is because it’s basically shaped like a funnel Well it's nice to know it's not only 'white' majority countries that are racist. Seems like every non-communist country is riddled with systemic, institutional racism. Racism is everywhere and every single person is racist, except for the Chinese Russian and North Koreans

When in doubt...

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U.S. manufacturing activity hits 14-month highU.S. manufacturing activity rebounded in June, hitting its highest level in more than a year as the broader economy reopened, but rising COVID-19 infections threaten the recovery. Catch-up? lol i thought China was cooking the books. How does that work out with 30M people still unemployed.. i cant seem to get the math to work US has to show hopeful numbers! That's the only option in gloom doom scenario + protests and job losses across..

Coronavirus update: U.S. sees biggest one-day spike in cases of COVID-19 as health experts urge caution for July 4 holidayThe U.S. recorded the highest number of new cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 in a single day at more than 50,000 on Wednesday, according to data... We’re being conned Social distancing and wear a mask: it will go down. As it did in Italy. tRUMP didn't talk about that this morning Must not know, just like everything else he doesn't know about. Because he doesn't care about you or anything or really: Just too stupid

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