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LATIN AMERICA | 20-07-2020 14:13

Chile seeks to end confinement amid global Covid-19 spikes

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced the "Step by Step" plan to get out of 60 days of quarantine.

Chile presented this Sunday a gradual plan to get out of the quarantine caused by the coronavirus, while Europe negotiates a recovery plan and Washington defends its criticised management of the health crisis.

Covid-19 has killed more than 604,000 people worldwide and infected 14.4 million since it emerged in China in December, according to an AFP count based on official data.

Without setting precise deadlines, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced the "Step by Step" plan to get out of 60 days of quarantine, which sets five parameters and whose start and advance date will depend on the situation of each community and region of the country. Chile is among the most affected in Latin America with 330,930 cases and 8,503 deaths.

The five phases of the plan include: “quarantine" (limited mobility); "transition" (release from confinement without abrupt reopening); "preparation" (removal of isolation with the exception of risk groups); "initial opening" (return of certain activities without crowds); and "advanced opening" (higher stage of activity).

In Santiago, where almost half of Chile's 18 million inhabitants live, gradual opening will depend on agreements with the mayors and their epidemiological statistics.

Bolsonaro and Brazil

Meanwhile, in Brazil, sympathisers of Jair Bolsonaro who is in quarantine for having contracted the virus, demonstrated in support of the far-right president and to criticise the confinement measures ordered in different states of the country.

Dressed in the colours of the Brazilian flag, they paraded through the capital carrying patriotic symbols, crosses and images of the president, who appears to be in good health and is resting in the official residence.

"I do anything to support Bolsonaro because I am tired of seeing him boycotted with lies," Sonia Delfine told AFP, who claimed to have traveled more than 400 km on a motorcycle to attend the demonstration.

Brazil, with more than 79,000 deaths and 2 million cases, is one of the most affected countries in the world.

In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador recalled this Sunday the almost 39,000 fatalities of the pandemic in the country, where more than 338,000 cases of Covid-19 were registered. 

'Some freedom'

The United States, the country hardest hit by the pandemic, registered nearly 64,000 new cases in the last 24 hours, and has a total of more than 3.7 million infections and 140,000 deaths. 

US President Donald Trump, campaigning for re-election, again defended his management of the pandemic and opposed the mandatory use of facemasks.

"I want people to have some freedom," he said in an interview with Fox News broadcast on Sunday.

He insisted that the events will ultimately prove him right with regard to his claim that the virus "is going to disappear."

Joe Biden, the Democrat who will contest the presidency in November, later assured that when Trump "talks about the coronavirus, you cannot believe a word of what he says" and urged the president to listen "to someone other than himself about the way to fight the virus. "

One step back

Hong Kong, Barcelona or Melbourne are examples of places that should have taken a step back in recent days in the face of an increase in infections.

"I think the situation is really critical and there are no signs that it will be controlled," said Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, urging the residents of this semi-autonomous territory to respect the restrictions.

Hong Kong was one of the first places to register cases of coronavirus after the pandemic emerged in December, but its management was very effective and in June there were almost no local infections.

However, in the last 15 days 500 cases were registered.

In Barcelona, they recommended the residents to stay home and restricted large gatherings in the face of a surge of cases.

Spain, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic with more than 28,400 deaths, currently registers about 150 outbreaks of infection, mainly in Catalonia, but also regions such as Aragon or the Basque Country. 

Meanwhile, in France, the use of a mandatory mask indoors takes effect on Monday, under penalty of a fine.

In Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, face masks will be mandatory from Thursday in public places also due to an increase in infections.

'To its knees'

Due to the impact of the pandemic, the planet could suffer an economic contraction of 4.9 percent in 2020, a decline that would be 10.2 percent in the euro area and 9.4 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the  International Monetary Fund (IMF).

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was graphic when he said on Saturday that the pandemic brought the world "to its knees", exhibiting its "fragility".

The European Union was intensifying difficult negotiations –- with no end in sight -– to approve a recovery plan as the virus resurfaces in the continent after the lack of confidence started in June.

The proposal is a US$840 billion fund that the European Commission would borrow.

But the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, followers of greater fiscal rigor, have shown reluctance.

-TIMES/AFP

by Paula Bustamante & Yanina Olivera, AFP

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