The Chilean government on Thursday announced special social-distancing regulations for Christmas, New Year and the Dec. 14 total eclipse of the sun, in a bid to avoid mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The special plans respond to the need to “anticipate and prevent situations” that will worsen the outbreak, government spokesperson Jaime Bellolio said at a press conference.
President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday extended a state of emergency for the third time.
The 90-day extension to the state of catastrophe, which was declared more than 8 months ago, came amid fears that Chile may see a second wave of infections in early 2021, fueled by holiday season socializing.
“The state of catastrophe allows us … to restrict the freedoms and movements of people and take measures such as lockdowns or curfews, which we consider necessary and must be able to impose if they become more necessary in the future,” Pinera said.
Regarding the solar eclipse, best seen from the region of La Araucania in southern Chile, the government announced the closure of routes, restrictions on traffic and the reinforcement of health controls at airport terminals in the area.
For the holidays, Chile’s existing night time curfew will be extended on Christmas Eve, and mass gatherings will be banned nationwide from 8 p.m. local time (2300 GMT) on Dec. 24 to 5 a.m. local time (0800 GMT) on Dec. 25.
Social gatherings will be limited to 30 people, including residents in the house.
For New Year, the curfew will run from Dec. 31 at 2 a.m. local time (0500 GMT), until 7 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Jan. 1.
Mass gatherings will also be banned from 8 p.m. local time (2300 GMT) on Dec. 31 to 5 a.m. local time (0800 GMT) on Jan. 2.
Chile has so far reported 555,406 COVID-19 cases with 15,519 deaths.