Chilean President Sebastian Piñera replaced the country’s health minister Jaime Manalich after a controversy over the figures for deaths from Covid-19.
Piñera said Manalich had spared “no effort” in carrying out his “difficult and noble duty” to protect Chileans’ health. He replaced him with Oscar Enrique Paris, an academic and medical doctor.
According to Reuters, Chile is facing its toughest month in the pandemic so far, with spiraling active cases and deaths rates. The country has the highest number of confirmed cases per million people in Latin America, reporting 167,355 cases on Saturday and 3,101 deaths, although it is also the country that most tests for the disease in the region.
Bloomberg reported that Manalich advocated a limited-lockdown policy that the government later abandoned when cases soared. He had also backed a failed proposal to introduce immunity cards for recovered Covid-19 patients.
Manalich, a kidney specialist who once ran one of Chile’s top hospitals, has won praise for an aggressive campaign to keep hospitals supplied with ventilators and protective equipment and leading detailed daily press conferences.
A Chilean investigative news outlet, Ciper, reported that the health ministry had told the World Health Organisation that as many as 5,000 deaths in the country were linked to coronavirus – a figure much higher than official records – which prompted a crisis in the agency.
The new minister, Enrique Paris, is a former head of the Chilean College of Doctors (Colmed) and a university deacon.