Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Chile - statistics & facts

As a country prone to earthquakes, both literal and sociopolitical, Chile currently faces another seismic challenge in the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). For instance, the spread of the disease led authorities to postpone the referendum on a new constitution, originally set to take place on April 26, 2020. The plebiscite, which resulted from a series of riots starting in October 2019, asked Chilean voters if they wanted to leave behind the body of fundamental laws enacted during the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973 to 1990. The electorate finally approved this reform by an overwhelming majority on October 25, 2020. Ironically, Pinochet-era health policies implemented in the late 1970s and early 1980s shape healthcare in Chile to this date. And in 2020, more than ever, the limitations of the country’s health system were made evident by the coronavirus outbreak.

Strong economy but dwindling health coverage

Chile is the independent country with the third largest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Latin America, after Uruguay and Panama. Yet its health system is deemed less stable than those of Argentina, Nicaragua, and Peru, for instance. Chile has over 66 percent more inhabitants than the Dominican Republic, but the latter has over twice as many hospitals. While the number of hospitals in Chile has decreased recently, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. By mid November 2020, over half a million people in Chile had been infected with coronavirus, and nearly 15,000 had died as a result of COVID-19 complications.

Can Chile avoid a postpandemic recession?

Like everywhere else, the COVID-19 outbreak comes with consequences for Chile’s economy. Alike other Latin American markets, the country’s GDP is set to decrease at least six percent by the end of 2020. Between March 3 — when the first coronavirus case in the country was reported — and March 19, 2020, the value of the Chilean peso depreciated almost seven percent, whereas the IPSA stock exchange index declined by around 30 percent.

Meanwhile, in the so-called real economy, almost half of internet users interviewed in Chile said they had bought alcohol-based sanitizer to help protect themselves from COVID-19, and sales of face masks in the country increased by 800 percent. Those behavioral changes, however, may not suffice for such an extraordinary situation. In the event of earthquakes, Chilean authorities recommend keeping calm and sheltering in a safe place. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, it remains unclear if that advice will be enough.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Chile

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