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MARCH 11, 2020

Health Minister emphasizes importance of preventative measures in greetings and the hygiene of contact surfaces

The health official appealed to personal responsibility to avoid the propagation of COVID-19.

Health Minister Jaime Mañalich spoke about the situation of COVID-19 in Chile, emphasizing the need for the population to consider taking preventative and hygiene-related measures in daily life as the number of imported cases has increased.

The official reported that the individuals involved in the 17 cases confirmed through yesterday “are in good health” and are following the quarantine protocol that the health authority has issued for epidemiological monitoring of each of them and their contacts.

In the context of the people who are being monitored because they have frequent contact with someone who has the illness, have a high risk of contracting it or come from a country with a high incidence of Coronavirus, the Minister stated, “I respectfully propose that, in addition to handwashing, where possible we maintain a distance from the people we interact with. The recommendation in Italy is for this to be at least one meter.”

The Health Minister noted that, “We have said over the last two days that people should maintain a distance. They should sneeze and cough on the inside of their arm, wash their hands, and hopefully greet each other and say goodbye using a bow or nod rather than shaking hands or kissing, as we know that otherwise that can mean that the virus will be present over a more prolonged period of time.”

He added, “Cleaning handprints in places that other people will touch is key for protecting ourselves from Coronavirus.” Related measures were implemented last week by the Santiago Metro on its underground train carriages.

In regard to suggested behaviors, the official was clear, stating that, “International experience is showing that it is effective, but it is impossible to police how people greet each other, which is why it is appropriate to ask each person to be responsible.”

The minister offered the following example: “Places of religious worship have taken appropriate measures in response to this directive. Various archbishoprics in Chile have asked that people give the sign of peace using gestures rather than shaking hands. In Catholic churches, Communion will not be placed on worshippers’ tongues, but in their hands so that saliva is not passed from one person to another, as we know that represents a certain risk of catching the disease.”

Regarding the situation of the students who are undergoing quarantine because they have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or as a monitoring measure, the minister reiterated that, “We are in Phase 2, given that all of the cases that we have identified can be traced to one trip abroad.”

In that context, he said, “We do not believe that it is time to call for a quarantine in the case of this school, but if there were an outbreak in a place like that, with secondary cases, that is, individuals who contracted the virus through contact with travelers who transmitted it here, we would have to issue a quarantine.”