The latest cautionary tale being held up to locked down Britons as the reason we can’t be released, including by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, is Chile, where an ambitious vaccination programme (albeit with China’s questionable Sinovac vaccine) has not prevented the country experiencing a new surge of coronavirus infections.
But as with other supposed cautionary tales like France and Brazil, are things really as bad as they’re being portrayed by our doom-addicted scientists, politicians and media?
Here’s the actual state of play. The positive rate did indeed start drifting upwards again in mid-Feb and since the end of March has accelerated – though since southern-hemisphere Chile is now in the middle of autumn, this is not wholly surprising.
This is despite the vaccination programme, which rivals the UK’s in speed of rollout, getting going at the start of February. Chris Whitty has backed the vaccinated-people-letting-their-guard-down theory, but in fact Google mobility data shows no sign of that, with a steep decline in mobility beginning in early March. Dr Clare Craig has written an excellent piece in the BMJ on other possible explanations beyond blaming people for letting their hair down (an explanation that hardly works for care homes).
But whatever the explanation, positive cases and deaths in the UK are now very low, suggesting Chile can hope for a similar outcome before long (though it will be interesting to see how its winter affects this).
Importantly, though, Chile is still significantly behind the UK in terms of total Covid deaths, so as a cautionary tale it is a strange one to pick.
Chile’s overall excess mortality is also similar to the UK’s.
In sum, given that the UK’s winter surge, which also coincided with its vaccine rollout, settled down within a few weeks, and Chile’s Covid deaths are currently behind the UK’s, Chile provides no reason not to follow states like Florida and Texas in reopening fully.