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Chile’s health minister left the post a few hours after a report revealed that his office provided different data to ciitizens and to the WHO.
Chile’s Health Minister, Jaime Manalich, resigned Saturday amid controversy over the official death toll from COVID-19 in the country that the ministry presented to the World Health Organization (WHO) and citizens.
The departure was announced by President Sebastian Piñera, who said that Manalich had spared "no effort" in carrying out his "difficult and noble duty" to protect Chileans' health. He replaced him with Oscar Enrique Paris, an academic and medical doctor.
Manalich departure, a defender of the "flexible quarantine," comes amid a controversy that cost him the credibility of public opinion, when the Ministry of Health had reported 3,101 deaths by COVID-19 to the country while reporting to the WHO on more than 5,000 deaths.
Contradiction in the data was revealed on Saturday when a report by an investigative journalism organization called CIPER obtained a copy of the documentation in which the health ministry told the WHO about the toll.
This report followed a week in which criticism of Manalich intensified after the ministry changed the way it tallies COVID-19 deaths. Many epidemiologists said the changes made no sense.
Deputy Health Minister Paula Daza said the higher figure is accurate and stems from the new and different tabulation methodology.
For his part, the health ministry official, Arturo Zuniga said that "the situation in our country continues to rise, above all in the metropolitan region."
Infections have risen steadily in the South American copper giant despite the capital Santiago and its seven million people being placed on lockdown more than a month ago.
On Friday, the government also put the cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar under mandatory quarantine, along with nearby rural towns.
The quarantine orders mean that nearly half of Chile's population of 18 million is under strict confinement.
The country now has the highest number of confirmed cases per million people in Latin America, "officially" reporting 167,355 cases on Saturday and 3,101 deaths.