A year after appointment, minister resigns over COVID-19 death toll


Chilean health minister Jaime Manalich resigned Saturday, just after a year in office, amid a furore over the true coronavirus death toll.

He was immediately replaced by Enrique Paris, former president of the Medical Association and an academic.

Monalich got into trouble over discrepancies in the death toll.

He was also criticised for his handling of the pandemic.

Following a change in the methodology announced by the Chilean authorities this week, the government acknowledged that it reported a much higher number of deaths from COVID-19 to the World Health Organization than it reported to the public.

The authorities are said to have reported more than 5,000 deaths to the WHO, as opposed to the 3,101 deaths registered in the official reports.

In addition to the changes in the death count methodology and the criticism over the lack of speed in the delivery of data, the figure of the minister was worn down by a series of controversies during the last few months he was in charge of the ministry.

He earned a lot of criticism for his handling of the pandemic, urging Chileans to live “with a new normality” at the beginning, but later tightening measures as there was a rise in the contagion curve.

On Saturday morning, the leaders of the opposition parties signed a letter requesting President Sebastian Pinera to remove Manalich. The government parties had apparently already been notified of Manalich’s departure by the president.

Enrique Paris who is taking over has defended the government’s handling of the pandemic.

“This is not the time to attack the health authority, and even less so the President of Chile”, he said.

With nearly half of its population in total quarantine, Chilean health authorities reported the highest daily death toll with 231 deaths, exceeding 3,000, and 6,509 new infections in the last 24 hours, totaling 167,355 cases.