Chile’s salmon aquaculture hub enters COVID-19 quarantine

Published on
July 30, 2020

Chile’s southern city of Puerto Montt, known as the hub of the country's salmon aquaculture sector, entered into quarantine as of 29 July, following a preventative decree from the Ministry of Health seeking to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The government decided to take action after recording more than 100 new cases a day of the virus for four consecutive days in the Los Lagos Region, where Puerto Montt, population of some 246,000, is the capital. Hatcheries, fisheries and packing plants are mostly located south of Puerto Montt, from which fresh salmon is flown daily and frozen salmon shipped worldwide. The city is a gateway to Chiloé Island across the Chacao Channel, where many salmon farming centers are also located.

Salmon farming industry association SalmonChile had previously highlighted the strict sanitary controls its member companies had implemented to prevent the spread of the virus.

“All the plants and cultivation centers of the companies affiliated with our association show high degrees of care for their workers, and in the midst of this pandemic they have implemented new measures to prevent the presence of COVID, including testing workers, temperature controls, and increased sanitation of common spaces. Furthermore, salmon producing regions maintain the lowest prevalence rate of contagion in the country,” it said in a statement issued in June.

It is still early to say how the lockdown will affect the salmon farming industry. Workers in industries that are determined essential, including the fish production and other food industries, have been exempt from having to stay at home. However, with the government decree issued on 27 July, long lines began to form at places like banks and supermarkets, with people trying to complete last-minute purchases and transactions before having to hunker down.

While under quarantine, residents must apply online for authorization from the national police – Carabineros – to be able to circulate to meet needs such as grocery or medicine purchases, bringing food to the elderly, or visiting the doctor. Individuals are granted a maximum of two permissions per week. Basic services industries must apply for and obtain permanent authorization for their workers to circulate freely.

Puerto Montt and two other cities in the north of Chile were the latest to enter quarantine. After enforcing strict quarantine measures for several weeks in places including capital Santiago (population seven million), health authorities have been able to bring the rate of new cases down 23 percent in the last two weeks. With that, the government has begun to implement its “Paso a Paso” (step by step) program in certain districts of the capital and some other cities, allowing people to leave their houses as long as they wear a mask in public and permitting the gradual opening up of services and stores.

As of 29 July, a total of 351,575 people had been infected with coronavirus and 9,278 people have died in Chile, according to the latest numbers from the Ministry of Health.

Photo courtesy of Maciej Bledowski/Shutterstock

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