Chile's Response to COVID-19

It’s the subject that’s been on everyone’s minds for nearly a year now. COVID-19 has changed the way things work in almost every country; for those of us who still want to live as much of a life as possible, this entails working around all kinds of restrictions, requirements, laws, and official recommendations. For some people, plans to move to another country could still work, even if COVID-related restrictions are still in place. Whether they’ve been planning a move to Chile since before the spread of the virus, or they’re looking for a place where they’ll feel better able to handle whatever the future holds, there are still plenty of people who want to move to Chile at the first opportunity. With that in mind, I’ve put together an overview of the way things are currently going in Chile.


Paso a Paso – the five stages, from quarantine to almost zero restrictions


Chile’s current response to COVID-19 is to classify cities with one of five ratings, “paso 1” being quarantine, and “paso 5” being restrictions only on large gatherings and long-distance travel. In addition to whatever restrictions apply to any specific city, the whole country is under a curfew that lasts from midnight to 5 AM. The use of masks is obligatory in public transport, enclosed spaces, and in outdoor spaces where it’s not possible to maintain a distance of two meters or more. Depending on what city you live in it’s possible to avoid wearing a mask, but most businesses won’t let you enter without one, and you run the risk of being fined if caught.


Paso 1 – Quarantine


All individuals who don’t work in “essential services” must stay at home; they’re allowed to get a permiso two times per week, valid for three hours, in order to buy the essentials. There are also permisos for taking walks with individuals on the autism spectrum, young children, and pets. Anyone who’s in a city that’s under quarantine isn’t allowed to leave the region except under special circumstances, like a funeral.


During a quarantine, all businesses are closed except for pharmacies, supermarkets and any other store that sells fresh food or grocery items, healthcare establishments, and essential public services.


Paso 2 – Transition


Quarantine restrictions apply on Saturdays and Sundays, but Monday through Friday you can move freely. Sports activities are allowed to resume as long as the public doesn’t attend, and school attendance is permitted as well. It’s also possible to have social gatherings of up to 20 people in open spaces, and 10 people indoors (Monday through Friday only). Most stores will be allowed to open during the week, but with limited capacity. Interregional travel is still prohibited, with the same exceptions as in Paso 1.


Paso 3 - Preparation


There’s no restriction on when you can leave your house, and more businesses are allowed to open. In addition to the businesses that are allowed to operate during Paso 2, restaurants, cafes, and a few other non-essential businesses can operate at 25% capacity, as long as their location has plenty of natural ventilation, and each group of customers is at least two meters apart. It’s possible to travel to cities in other regions, as long as they’re in Paso 3, 4, or 5. Social gatherings have limits of 50 people in open spaces and 25 people indoors.


Paso 4 – Initial Opening


Limits on sports activities are relaxed, the amount of people who can assemble for social gatherings is doubled from Paso 3 limits, and restaurants can function at 50% capacity. You still have to get a permit to travel outside your city, but you won’t need a permit for anything you do inside the city.


Paso 5 – Advanced Opening


The main restrictions here are limits on social gatherings – 100 people in open spaces, 50 indoors – and interregional travel. Like in Pasos 3 and 4, you can travel to another region with a permit, as long as the destination city is in Paso 3, 4, or 5.

The rules are fairly well-defined at this point, but in reality, the strictness with which they’re enforced depends on the number of carabineros who are deployed to “keep order”, i.e. check to see if everyone has the right permit. Even communities in quarantine won’t necessarily observe basic requirements, like staying indoors unless they have a permit to go out. It all depends on the place, though; if you’re making plans around a certain city, plan on the restrictions being enforced.


For more detailed information on the Paso a Paso plan, visit the government website (Spanish only). For information on each community’s status with regards to the Paso a Paso plan, visit this website (also Spanish only).


If you’re interested in knowing how this could affect your plans to move to Chile, just stay tuned! We’ll be publishing a follow-up article soon that should answer a lot of your questions.

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