Ministers test positive as Chile sees record jump in COVID-19 cases
Updated 13:47, 26-May-2020
Local workers clean the streets as a precautionary measure amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in Vina del Mar, Chile. /Reuters

Local workers clean the streets as a precautionary measure amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in Vina del Mar, Chile. /Reuters

Chile registered a new high for coronavirus cases on Monday, with nearly 5,000 new infection cases, including two ministers in President Sebastian Pinera's government.

Health authorities announced they had registered 4,895 new infections in the South American country and 43 deaths in the previous 24 hours.

Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno and Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobet said they were among those with the disease.

"I have been informed that the COVID-19 test I had a few days ago was positive," Moreno said on Twitter, adding that he had no symptoms so far. The 63-year-old minister had placed himself in quarantine after one of his staff tested positive. 

Jobet also tested positive after starting to quarantine preventatively on Saturday, "when he experienced mild symptoms, which could be associated with the disease," a statement from the Energy Ministry said.

The 44-year-old minister "has had no direct contact with President Sebastian Pinera or other cabinet members in recent days," the statement added, without specifying how he became infected.

Three other ministers, who had self-quarantined after being in contact with infected people, have all tested negative and resumed work.

A day earlier, President Pinera said the country's healthcare system is under strain and "very close to the limit," as more than 1,000 people had been hospitalized for the disease associated with the coronavirus.

"We are very close to the limit because we have had a very large increase in the needs and demands for medical care, and for intensive care unit beds and ventilators," Pinera said during a visit to a hospital in capital Santiago, which has the highest concentration of cases.

A third of Chile's population of about 19 million is under mandatory quarantine after the government put Santiago and several other cities under lockdown. The capital is the main focus of the pandemic in Chile, reporting 90 percent of the country's 74,000 cases. 

Last week, the Senate was closed after three senators tested positive for the coronavirus. Sessions were held by video conference.

(With input from Reuters)