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Do not become complacent, vaccine-rich Chileans warned

Aislinn Laing
·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Chile

By Aislinn Laing

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean authorities have warned citizens to keep protecting themselves from the coronavirus despite the country's highly successful vaccination programme amid fears that the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer and return to work and school could bring a fresh spike in cases.

Chile's top public health official, Paula Daza, told Reuters in an interview that despite almost 26% of the population now having received a vaccine dose, Chileans should not lower their guard just yet.

"Chile has a vaccination strategy under way that is very solid and has reached all corners of our territory and that is very good news," she said.

"You have to strike a balance, to give people hope because it has been a hard year for everyone ... but we also have to keep warning of the risks."

Chile ranks sixth in the world for per-capita vaccine shots administered according to Reuters data, with just shy of 4 million people now having received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines developed by pharmaceutical firms Pfizer/BioNTech and Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

But on Friday, daily confirmed cases of the virus in Chile hit their highest rate in eight months at 5,325, bringing warnings from authorities of potential fresh quarantines.

Daza said fatigue with lengthy restrictions on movement and strict sanitary measures coupled with the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer holiday meant cases ticking up since November could now spike.

She said informal health ministry polls around vaccination centres and in shopping precincts indicated people viewed the arrival of vaccines as the end of their ordeal.

"We ask people why they are getting vaccinated and they say: 'With the vaccine all this is going to end, I will have more freedom,'" she said.

"But you can have an increase in the number of cases at the same time as you advance with vaccinations. We are telling people to watch out, we are still in a pandemic."

(Reporting by Aislinn Laing in Santiago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)