Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency for 90 days beginning March 19, to address the COVID-19 crisis. The borders are closed to foreign visitors in an attempt to avoid the entry of people who might be infected, and a curfew was established from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“The objective is to anticipate, to prepare us to deal with the upcoming stages in this matter. It will allow us to provide better security in our hospitals and all health care facilities,” said the Chilean president.
Piñera also declared that service members would protect critical infrastructure, such as hospitals. He said that this decision seeks to “better protect the logistics chain for medical supplies; to facilitate the care and transport of patients and medical personnel, as well as the evacuation of people when necessary; and to ensure that people comply with the quarantine and social distancing measures that were established.”
Heads of National Defense
The president appointed 16 heads of National Defense (12 Army generals, two Air Force generals, and two Navy admirals) in every region in the country. They will coordinate collaboration efforts to safeguard public order, patient transport, and hospital protection, among other tasks. If quarantines or curfews are indicated in specific regions or places, it is the responsibility of each head of Defense to ensure compliance.
“[Service members] will protect the logistics chain and the transport of medical supplies; they will protect hospitals and health care centers, including critical infrastructure of basic services. In addition, the Armed Forces will collaborate with the police to safeguard public order,” said the Chilean Navy in a press release.
President Piñera said that Chilean service members can also act as real “health forces.” Minister of Defense Alberto Espina and Minister of Health Jaime Mañalich agreed that the Armed Forces can collaborate with health officials and ensure order for the collection, storage, or organization of food reserves and facilitate the transport of patients and health personnel from one medical facility to another.
“The Armed Forces have a capacity for leadership, order, and control like no other human organization. They can react quickly and effectively in the event of any emergency. They are capable of deploying nationwide in an agile, orderly way,” said Minister Mañalich. “They can concentrate resources to support this health alert and the state of emergency very quickly, and they are able to transport a large number of personnel. Not to mention the survival skills and autonomy that they have when they are away from their bases,” he said.
In theory, Chile can count on about 88,000 men and women that are part of the country’s Armed Forces to fight against the coronavirus.