Santiago, Sep 17 (EFE).- Chile’s second Independence Day celebration since the onset of the pandemic is taking place without stay-at-home orders and with some neighborhood festivities, although traditional large-scale events once again are prohibited.
More than 250,000 vehicles have departed this capital, home to 8 million of the country’s 19 million inhabitants, since Wednesday.
That level of outbound traffic, not seen since the start of the pandemic, was triggered by adjustments to coronavirus restrictions that have led to all 346 comunas (municipalities) being placed in the most advanced stages of the nation’s Paso a Paso (Step by Step) reopening plan.
Motorists thus far have avoided large traffic jams on major roads, although greater highway congestion is expected on Friday, authorities said.
“Remembering our heroes and patriotic symbols, I invite you to celebrate a safe, happy and hopeful (Sept. 18) with your family and loved ones, protecting everyone’s health. Long live the 18th! Long live Chile!” Chilean President Sebastian Piñera wrote on Twitter.
The festivities will run this year from Sept. 17 to Sept. 19, although the focal point remains Sept. 18, the anniversary of the establishment of the country’s First Government Junta in 1810.
A health protocol was announced this year that clears the way for the celebration of the traditional “fondas,” neighborhood festivities in which large tents are set up for eating and dancing.
Those gatherings were banned in 2020, but they are allowed this year for groups of up to 300 vaccinated people.
But the Chilean capital’s largest fondas, which typically attract thousands of people over several days and feature concerts and food markets, will be prohibited once again this year.
Coronavirus numbers have fallen sharply over the past two months, with the nationwide test positivity rate – the number of confirmed cases divided by all PCR tests performed over a 24-hour period – hovering around 1 percent in recent weeks and new daily cases below the 1,000 mark.
“There are regions that worry us more. This situation creates concern on the one hand and on the other (drives home) the need to maintain measures that will help make sure the good numbers we’ve had until now remain that way in the future,” Chilean Health Minister Enrique Paris said.
Chile, whose borders have been closed for more than five months but will be reopened to vaccinated tourists on Oct. 1, has officially reported 1.64 million coronavirus cases to date and 37,293 Covid-19 deaths.
Chile’s success in combating Covid-19 has gone hand-in-hand with one of the world’s most successful immunization campaigns.
More than 13 million people have received the full vaccine series (more than 86 percent of the population that is eligible for immunization); the majority received the shot developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, while others were administered vaccines developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca, CanSino Biologics and Pfizer-BioNTech. EFE