Chile: why are Covid cases rising despite ‘remarkable’ vaccine effort - and what vaccine is Chile using?

Chris Whitty warned that a new wave of coronavirus cases in Chile could be proof that a strong vaccination programme might not be enough

Covid infections are rising in Chile despite the country making “significant” strides forward in its vaccination programme rollout.

But why are cases continuing to rise? Here’s what you need to know.

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What new lockdown measures have been put in place in Chile?

Chris Whitty warned that a new wave of coronavirus cases in Chile could be proof that a strong vaccination programme might not be enough (Photo: Shutterstock)

Chile is currently vaccinating people at one of the fastest rates in the world, with more than a third of people in the South American country having received a jab so far.

The country first began rolling out its vaccination programme in December last year.

Chile began by vaccinating medical workers and then by the end of January the country received four million doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, which enabled it to speed up its vaccination programme.

In total, Chile now has more than 35 million vaccines lined up, including 10 million from Pfizer, 10 million from China’s Sinovac, and then smaller batches from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and some doses via the World Health Organization’s Covax scheme.

However, despite the quick rollout of the Covid vaccination programme, last week the country put border closures and strict lockdown measures into place due to some areas experiencing a large rise in coronavirus cases.

In March, Chile introduced new lockdown measures in several areas - including the country’s capital of Santiago - which impacted more than nine million people.

On 1 April, the country’s total number of Covid cases passed one million, with the Government then announcing borders would be closed for a period of 30 days. A curfew was also brought in from 9pm.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up until 5 April 2021 there have been 1,026,785 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Chile and 23,644 deaths. As of 1 April 2021, a total of 10,461,783 vaccine doses have been administered.

From 5 April, all non-resident foreign nationals will not be permitted to enter Chile and this measure will be in place for the whole of April.

However, the Chilean authorities will reassess this restriction at the end of April.

All Chilean borders close for the whole of April, with Chilean authorities prohibiting all non-essential overseas travel to Chileans and resident foreign nationals, apart from a few exceptions, which must be requested via the Comisaria Virtual website.

Why are Covid cases rising in Chile?

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said it’s not yet known why Covid cases are rising in Chile, but said that it shows Covid does not just disappear even if a lot of people have been vaccinated.

Prof Whitty told a Downing Street press conference on Monday (5 April) that while Chile had vaccinated a “significant” number of its population, its Covid rates were not staying down.

He said: “Is this due to vaccines used? Is this due to the timing of when things have actually been rolled out? Is it due to particular interactions with other variants? We don’t yet know.

“We absolutely need to learn from those countries that are ahead of us or alongside us in terms of vaccine rollout.”

He added: “The assumption that you vaccinate lots of people and the problem goes away, I think Chile is quite a good corrective for that.”

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