Chili experiencing a new phase of the pandemic coronavirus, in a very different context from the one that prevailed a couple of months ago. At the beginning of October, the use of a chinstrap ceased to be mandatory in closed spaces -with the exception of those who attend health facilities- and the authorities of the Ministry of Health declared that the measure sought to advance in “greater freedoms” and with a management of the pandemic “proportionate to the current risk”.
Today the streets of the country show a complete return to normality and masks are seen less and less in other potentially risky places, such as public transport or in places where there are crowds of people. Chile was one of the last countries in the region to eliminate this provision, but today that situation could change again due to the increase in cases and the rise in the positivity of PCR tests.
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“We had quite a significant increase, but we continue to continuously review what happens in hospitalization and use of critical beds. Based on that, we decide which phase of the Step by Step Plan we are in. Now we are in the Opening phase, but that does not mean that if the situation changes, we can go back”, said Chilean Health Minister Ximena Aguilera.
“The pandemic is not over and we must learn to live with the virus. The call to people is to get vaccinated, because the vaccine has a strain that circulates in the world “added the official.
In this Thursday’s report, the ministry reported that during the previous 24 hours Chile had registered 5846 cases of Covid-19 throughout the country and a positivity of 15.11%. In addition, 57 people died as a result of the coronavirus, which was the highest number in 84 days. Since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded more than 6,230 deaths from the disease.
“After a great wave of delta and omicron variants that we have had, we experienced a drop in cases at the end of September. The problem is that now we had a rally and that it is linked to the new instruction that it was no longer mandatory to wear a mask in public spaces. However, the rise has been more or less stable, and we are not currently experiencing a dramatic spike. You have to be prepared, but not alarmed. The virus mutates and tends to escape protection, but it has not been related to the increase in deaths,” Dr. Katia Abarca, an infectologist at the UC Christus Health Network, told LA NACION.
Precisely, one of the most critical points has to do with the proliferation of different strains of the virus that have gained in transmissibility. “And that they have such ugly names”, adds Dr. Abarca, in relation to the two omicron subvariants that have shown rapid contagion in European countries and the United States: BQ.1 and XBB, baptized on social networks with terms as sui generis as bombastic: “Hellhound” Y “Nightmare”.
In the case of “Hellhound” These are two subvariants of Ómicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, which had already been reported in the world for a couple of months. The nickname has its origin in Cerbero, from the Greek Kérberos, which means “demon of the pit”, alluding to the fact that it is the dog of hell. It is a demon with several heads –commonly three– and a serpentine tail.
Meanwhile, and in the case of “Nightmare”, which is called XXB by experts, is a recombinant variant of the BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 sublineages that has not created significant waves, like others such as delta and omicron at the time. It is considered to be a variant that has been in decline since October, but which was also responsible for the increase in coronavirus cases in countries such as singapore and india.
“Are omicron subvariants that had small changes, but they do not become a new variant,” said infectologist Katia Abarca, who insisted on the importance of vaccines to prevent more serious cases or potential deaths. “In Chile we have done well in that sense to counteract them and our vaccination plan worked very well.”
Regarding the debate on the return of chinstraps, It is not yet clear that it will be implemented and everything depends on the increase in infections and the collapse of the health system due to outbreaks of other respiratory diseases.
“If the Minsal Advisory Committee on Respiratory Diseases, or the minister herself, considers that next year you have to wear a mask, you have to do it. The mask has shown that it not only protects against the coronavirus, but also against influenza, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial and even against some bacteria, such as meningococcus”, said the former Minister of Health, Enrique Paris, yesterday in an activity carried out at the San Sebastián University .
By Victor Garcia