Chile Counts Those Who Died of Coronavirus as Recovered Because They're 'No Longer Contagious,' Health Minister Says

Cases of the novel coronavirus in Chile have climbed past 7,500, including 82 deaths, while over 2,300 have recovered from infection as of Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

But coronavirus patients in Chile who have died are being counted among the country's recovered population because they are "no longer contagious," Chile's Health Minister Jaime Mañalich said this week.

"We have 898 patients who are no longer contagious, who are not a source of contagion for others and we include them as recovered. These are the people who have completed 14 days of diagnosis or who unfortunately have passed away," Mañalich announced at a press conference.

It is unknown when Chile began including the dead among the number of people who have recovered. But the calculation has reportedly been adopted following validation by international health experts, the government claims.

Newsweek has contacted the World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for further comment on the inclusion of deaths in Chile's tally of total recoveries.

Chile's first case was confirmed on March 3, a 33-year-old male doctor who had traveled to Asia. The first death was on March 21, which was that of an 83-year-old woman, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) reported.

Last month, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a 90-day state of catastrophe, as the number of new cases began to rise in the country.

"This state [of catastrophe] is aimed at...preparing ourselves to confront what lies ahead," Piñera said in a speech at the time.

The country closed its borders in March and large parts of the Chilean capital, Santiago, home to around six million, were placed under lockdown. Schools and various public venues, including malls and movie theaters, and most non-essential services have been closed, Reuters reports.

On Monday, Mañalich warned that "prudence and wisdom" was needed when enforcing quarantines.

"Quarantining a place where various people live in a few square meters is not only a sacrifice that generates enormous trauma and health risks, especially for mental health and intra-family violence," he said. "It is a tool that produces a shift of such magnitude in people's freedom of movement that it has to be used with great care, prudence and wisdom."

Santiago, Chile, face mask, coronavirus, March 2020
A demonstrator wearing a face mask in Santiago, Chile on March 16, 2020. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises. Getty Images

Last week, the health ministry announced that those who have recovered from the virus will be given a "discharge certificate" and be exempt from adhering to quarantines or other restrictions.

"Those given a medical discharge certificate will be freed from all types of quarantine or restriction, specifically because they can help their communities enormously since they pose no risk," Mañalich said at a press briefing last Thursday.

The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, has spread to more than 1.9 million people across at least 185 countries and regions.

Large parts of South America have yet to report any confirmed cases. But Brazil has seen the largest portion of cases so far, with over 23,700 to date, while Peru has reported over 9,700 cases. Most of the rest of the continent has reported less than 2,000 confirmed infections, as of Tuesday.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the globe.

global COVID-19 virus cases, April 14, 2020
The spread of the COVID-19 virus outbreak across the globe. Statista

Data on COVID-19 cases is from Johns Hopkins University unless otherwise stated.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
Chile Counts Those Who Died of Coronavirus as Recovered Because They're 'No Longer Contagious,' Health Minister Says | News