The “slight improvement” in Chile, a real brake on infections or lack of exams?

With a decrease in the last week of 25% in new cases of coronavirus, the Government of Chile assures that the country is experiencing a “slight improvement” and that the decrease in the number of PCR tests is due to the fact that there are fewer people with symptoms But to what extent does this variable reflect relief from the pandemic?

Chile is the Latin American country that carries out the most COVID-19 exams per million inhabitants on a daily basis: in June it did 17,568 tests on average. But the past two days have fallen by almost half, with just over 10,000 PCR tests.

At the same time, the health authorities speak of a “slight improvement” because infections have dropped below 3,000, after several weeks reporting more than 4,000 cases a day, which according to government data is equivalent to a decrease in infections. 25% in the last seven days and 21% in the last 14 days.

It is difficult for experts to discern whether the hopeful figures show a real brake on new infections or if it is a direct consequence of doing less testing.


“There is a smaller number of people who are presenting symptoms and who are approaching health facilities” to be tested, said the Undersecretary of Assistance Networks, Arturo Zúñiga, on Thursday.

When asked about the drastic reduction in exams, Zúñiga alleged that “obviously you can support it because the positivity rate continues to drop.”

However, the positivity index, that is, the percentage of infections detected among the total diagnoses, still ranges around 24%, so experts agree that it is too high to curb the detection of the SARS coronavirus -CoV-2.

Ricardo Soto, a virologist at the University of Chile, told Efe that “if you do not drop below 10% positivity – which is what the WHO recommends – you cannot think of going back to normal.”

“The main problem we have is social, there are still a lot of people who go out looking for what they will eat that night,” he lamented.

Doctor of Public Health Sciences from the University of Toronto Jaime Sapag called to take advantage of the potential of the southern country: “We must think that there are many people with COVID-19 without symptoms and that is why it is important to advance detection strategies and much more active traceability. “

The southern country has a network of 103 laboratories with the capacity to process 23,000 samples every day.

With more than 284,000 infections, Chile is the seventh country with the most COVID-19 infections worldwide, above Italy and Spain, and the deceased exceed 9,000, between confirmed and suspected.


Cristobal Cuadrado, an academic at the University of Chile’s School of Public Health, told Efe that it is “very problematic” that the health system does not “actively” search for those infected with COVID-19 given the high positivity.

“Perhaps people are consulting less in health centers, but this does not necessarily mean that the viral circulation has decreased,” said Cuadrado, who heads the “MOVID” project, an investigation by the University of Chile with the Medical College that analyzes the evolution of the pandemic.

For the expert, the Government should implement measures such as “community testing” in areas with a high presence of the virus or more innovative ways, such as taking samples from people inside their vehicles to avoid having to go to a health center.

In this sense, sources from the Ministry of Health confirmed to Efe that they are “reinforcing” the strategy of home examinations since fewer people come to the doctor’s offices for different reasons, such as the cold that the southern winter brought.


“What we have called slight improvement is sustained by the data we report, and the data at the national level is good, it hurts whoever it hurts,” Health Minister Enrique Paris said Thursday.

The ministerial chief stressed that the contagion curve in the Metropolitan Region, the main focus of the pandemic and where Santiago is located, is beginning to decline.

The capital has been in mandatory quarantine for a month and a half, although some downtown neighborhoods have been locked up since the end of March, one of the longest confinements in the world.

Public Health expert Cristobal Cuadrado acknowledged that “objectively” there are indicators that point to an improvement, but criticized that “the magnitude that is being communicated is not correct” due to the lack of PCR tests.

Along the same lines, Jaime Sapag, Master in Public Health at the Catholic University of Chile, recommended “caution” to the authorities: “You have to be very careful with the terminology so that there is as little confusion as possible.”

Arnald Prat Barnadas


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