Why is vaccinated Chile locking down again?

On 29 March, 6.53 million of the country’s 19 million population had received a first dose of vaccine (either Pfizer or the Chinese Sinovac) and 3.37 million had received a second dose. In combined doses per million people, Chile is a little ahead of Britain. Yet large parts of the country have been placed back into a lockdown even more severe than Britain’s over the past three months. In the capital Santiago, people are not even allowed to go shopping at the weekend – and must obey a permit system on weekdays.

In spite of their vaccination programme, figures for new infections are running ahead of where they were when the virus peaked in Chile last May and June. On 26 March, confirmed cases hit a new record of 7,626 – compared to a peak of 6,938 on 14 June last year. Critical care bed occupancy, at 3,461 on 29 March, is higher than the peak of 2,846 reached on 3 July last year. Deaths, however, are markedly lower than they were during the peak last year: back then they reached 195 on 13 June. The highest figure in recent weeks was 113 on 16 March.

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