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Quarantine raises mental health, domestic violence risk -Chilean govt

by Reuters
Monday, 13 April 2020 17:30 GMT

Women rights activists wearing masks take part in a protest opposing violence against women and against Chile's government in Santiago, Chile December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

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Concerns over domestic violence have risen as people around the world remain under lockdown amid the coronavirus

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By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda and Aislinn Laing

SANTIAGO, April 13 (Reuters) - Chile's health minister on Monday said "prudence and wisdom" was needed when applying coronavirus quarantines since they bring with them increased risks to people's mental health and rates of intra-family violence.

Jaime Manalich said the experience of other countries had shown that if blanket quarantines were applied or left in place too long, people sometimes disobeyed en masse.

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Speaking at a daily health ministry press conference in Santiago, the minister singled out the capital's low-income and overcrowded Puente Alto suburb, part of which is at present under quarantine.

Some mayors, medical experts and citizens' groups have been critical of the government's decision to phase in and out quarantines in targeted areas where infections are prevalent.

Chile on Monday registered 7,525 confirmed cases, 82 deaths, and 2,367 people recovered from the new coronavirus. The virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and before the weekend had claimed a global total of 100,000 lives and 1.6 million confirmed cases, according to a Reuters tally.

"Quarantining a place where various people live in a few square meters is not only a sacrifice that generates enormous trauma and health risks, especially for mental health and intra-family violence," said Manalich.

"It is a tool that produces a shift of such magnitude in people's freedom of movement that it has to be used with great care, prudence and wisdom."

Last week Chile's Minister for Women Carolina Cuevas said there was a 70% increase in calls to a government-run domestic violence hotline on the first weekend of a quarantine announced for parts of Santiago.

(Reporting by Natalia Ramos, Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Andrea Ricci)