SANTIAGO – Some 15% of Chileans who have tested positive for COVID-19 are still going to work, according to a study released on Wednesday by the country’s medical association and the University of Chile.
Among people presenting “suspicious” symptoms who have not been tested, the proportion of those still on the job rose to 43.6%, and those respondents also reported traveling on public transportation at least twice a week.
This “worrisome scenario” reflects stark differences in economic status that determine who can afford to self-isolate at home, the study’s authors said.
The findings are based on interviews conducted over the last six weeks with nearly 40,000 people in 321 municipalities.
“In a context of high viral transmission, anyone with a symptomatic profile must be treated as a probable case and, accordingly, should be placed in isolation,” report co-author Cristobal Cuadrado, a member of the faculty at the UC School of Public Health, wrote.
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Chile topped 82,000 Wednesday. Fatalities blamed on the illness stand at 841.
Health authorities said that 86% of ICU beds in Chilean hospitals are occupied.
In the Santiago Metropolitan Area, which is home to a substantial portion of the nation’s population, only 5% of ICU beds are available.
Poor people often face a choice between risking their health and seeing their families go hungry, the study found.
To address the problem, UC and the medical association recommended providing direct payments to low-income households in the capital, which is under quarantine.
Another proposal was to expand the number of spots in sanitariums for people unable to self-isolate at home.
More than 800 people were admitted to the 58 designated quarantine sanitariums in the last 72 hours and an additional 2,504 places are available, the health ministry said.
In some instances, entire families are being lodged together for the mandated 14-day period.
Greater Santiago is entering a second week of “mega-quarantine,” with roughly 7 million people effectively confined to their homes until June 5.
The restrictions have already sparked protests in poor and working-class neighborhoods of the capital region.