Chile's health minister resigns as pandemic hits hard
Issued on: Modified:
Chile's health minister resigned Saturday amid controversy over the country's official coronavirus death toll, as the pandemic hits the nation hard despite quarantine measures in the capital for more than a month.
The departure of Jaime Manalich was announced by President Sebastian Pinera.
The government says publicly that the health crisis has claimed more than 3,000 lives.
On Saturday, however, a report revealed that Chile had informed the World Health Organization that the country's coronavirus death toll was actually more than 5,000.
The report was by an investigative journalism organization called CIPER which obtained a copy of documentation in which the health ministry told the WHO about the toll.
Publication of the information followed a week in which criticism of Manalich intensified after the ministry changed the way it tallies COVID-19 deaths. Many epidemiologists said the changes made no sense.
Deputy Health Minister Paula Daza said the higher figure is accurate and stems from the new and different tabulation methodology.
On Friday Chile set a record for new infections and deaths over a 24 hour period -- 6,754 and 222, respectively.
"The situation in our country continues to rise, above all in the metropolitan region," health ministry official Arturo Zuniga said Friday.
Infections have risen steadily in the South American copper giant despite the capital Santiago and its seven million people being placed on lockdown more than a month ago.
On Friday, the government also put the cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar under mandatory quarantine, along with nearby rural towns.
The quarantine orders mean that nearly half of Chile's population of 18 million is under strict confinement.
As of Saturday Chile has officially reported 167,355 cases of infection and 3,101 deaths.
© 2020 AFP