SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile on Saturday increased its estimate of cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus while a labor union at state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, confirmed that a second company employee had died in the pandemic.
Amid an effort re-organize its much-criticized reporting of virus-related deaths, the government increased its estimated number of fatal cases to more than 7,000 from a previously-confirmed 4,265.
“In relation to those who died due to COVID without laboratory confirmation, that is, deaths in which COVID is a possible or probable cause, the number rises by 3,069,” said Rafael Araos, the country’s chief epidemiologist.
President Sebastian Pinera this month replaced the country’s health minister as controversy grew over the country’s coronavirus figures. Official data show there have been 236,748 infections in Chile so far.
Codelco released an internal statement confirming the death of worker Yony Caral from the Ministro Hales mine, without directly saying what caused the death, while an official with the Federation of Copper Workers (FTC) told Reuters that Caral had been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
“The death of our colleague is a hard blow to our team, since it is the sign of the unfortunate transit that we live as a society in the face of this pandemic,” according to the internal document, seen by Reuters.
Codelco declined to comment further.
The FTC reported a mine worker at the sprawling Chuquicamata copper mine in northern Chile died early this month from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. It was the first death at Codelco caused by the virus.
Union organizations have demanded greater protection measures in the face of the sustained advance of the pandemic in the country, where mining operations have continued to operate, albeit with increased health restrictions.
Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Editing by Marguerita Choy