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Chile: Legal Response to Covid-19

Chile [cl]

Guillermo Jiménez

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 23 June 2021

General editors: Prof. Jeff King; Dr. Octavio Ferraz
Area editors: Prof. Tendayi Achiume; Prof. Alan Bogg; Dr. Natalie Byrom; Prof. Cathryn Costello; Prof. Nicola Countouris; Prof. Colleen Flood; Prof. Eva Pils; Prof. Nico Steytler; Dr. Silvia Suteu; Dr. Bryan Thomas; Dr. Michael Veale; Dr. Pedro A. Villarreal

© The several contributors 2021. Some rights reserved. This is an open access publication, available online and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0), a copy of which is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. Enquiries concerning use outside the scope of the licence terms should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press.

DOI: 10.1093/law-occ19/e5.013.5

Except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 04 January 2021

I.  Constitutional Framework

1.  Chile is a unitary, presidential, and highly centralized republic, with a codified constitution.1 The Chilean Constitution was originally enacted in 1980 during a military dictatorship headed by General Augusto Pinochet. Constitutional amendment is a rigid process. Some chapters require a two-thirds majority vote in order to be amended, while all the remaining chapters require a three-fifths majority vote in the National Congress. The Constitution has been reformed numerous times since its enactment, particularly in 2005 when crucial democratic reforms were introduced. After unprecedented social unrest, in November 2019 an agreement was reached to initiate a process for drafting a new constitution. The first stage of the process was a referendum that took place on 25 October 2020 and resulted in vast majority support for drafting a new constitution by a constitutional convention (see Part III.D below).

2.  The National Congress is bicameral, with two elected chambers, called Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The main difference between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate is their size. The Chamber of Deputies is composed of 155 deputies, while the Senate is composed of 50 senators. Although both are elected through a proportional representation system, electoral districts for senators are larger than for deputies. There are 28 electoral districts for deputies and 16 for senators. There is also a difference in relation to electoral terms, as deputies hold office for four years, and senators for eight years. Age requirements are slightly higher for senators than for deputies (35 years versus 21 years of age). Lastly, the chambers’ legislative powers are symmetrical, but supervision of government is exclusively allocated to the Chamber of Deputies.

3.  The President of the Republic is elected by popular vote for a non-renewable four-year period. The President appoints their ministers, who are then exclusively responsible to them. The National Congress can remove a minister only through impeachment, which must be approved by majority vote in both chambers. The President of the Republic enjoys a position of dominance in both executive and legislative affairs, as they are both the Chief of Public Administration and hold broad powers in the legislative process as a co-legislator. The Constitution establishes that only the President can initiate legislative discussion on key policy areas, such as issues of public expenditure, social security, and public administration.

4.  Law-making is divided between different types of legislation and executive regulations. Judicial decisions are excluded from this as they are generally considered to be lacking in general legal force extending beyond the parties to the dispute. The Constitution regulates three main types of laws, depending on the subject matter and requiring variable quorum for their approval. Organic Constitutional Laws are laws that regulate matters such as basic state organization and require a four-sevenths majority in each chamber to be approved. Qualified Quorum Laws are laws that regulate matters such as transparency and public enterprises and require a simple majority of the elected members in each chamber to be approved. Finally, Ordinary Laws regulate issues not assigned to the other two categories and require a majority of the members of Congress in attendance to be approved. Although laws prevail over executive regulations, the Constitution grants the President power to issue autonomous regulations in areas not governed by laws. In practice this power has been rarely exercised.

5.  Chile is a highly centralized country divided into 16 regions, each of them under the control of an Intendant, who is currently appointed by the President of the Republic at will. At the local level, there are 345 municipalities each headed by a mayor, who is elected by popular vote every four years. Municipalities are constitutionally autonomous from the central government. Most of a mayor’s powers are focused on management of communal services like primary health, education, and issuance of driver licenses. But they can also enact ordinances that regulate public spaces, such as activities in streets and public parks. Although these ordinances are subordinate to government policy, which means that they cannot be contradictory to central government regulations, a minister cannot overrule a mayor at discretion. To approve ordinances, the mayor needs the consent of the municipal council, which is also elected by popular vote. Generally, the municipal powers are strongly concentrated in the mayor.

6.  The response to the pandemic has not changed the basic constitutional structure of the state, but it has exacerbated pre-existing tensions in various areas. This has been particularly important considering the constitutional crisis that the country has been experiencing since October 2019. The pandemic has aggravated the Government’s incapacity to control the political agenda and has strengthened the political role of the National Congress and municipalities. This is illustrated by the fact that the Constitution has been amended nine times between March and November 2020.

II.  Applicable Legal Framework

A.  Constitutional and international law

7.  The Chilean Constitution provides that the exercise of constitutional rights can be ‘affected’ in situations of internal or external war, internal turmoil, emergency, and public calamity, when they gravely affect the normal operation of the institutions of the State (Article 39). Each of these situations can give rise to a different type of state of exception (assembly, siege, emergency, and catastrophe), each type governed by slightly different rules regarding their declaration (Articles 40, 41, and 42) and may affect different rights (Article 43).

8.  In cases of public calamity, the most relevant in public health crises, the Constitution provides that the President of the Republic can declare a ‘Constitutional State of Exception of Catastrophe’ (Estado de Excepción Constitucional de Catástrofe) (‘state of catastrophe’), designating geographical areas affected by the calamity (Article 41). The President of the Republic is under a duty to report to the National Congress about the measures adopted, and the National Congress can call off the declaration after 180 days if the causes of the public health emergency (ie the ‘calamity’) have ceased absolutely. The President of the Republic needs congressional assent for declaring the state of catastrophe for more than a year. Under a declaration of a state of catastrophe, the designated areas are under the immediate authority of a Chief of the National Defense, who is appointed by the President of the Republic. The Chief of the National Defense is a military officer who holds the powers delegated by the President of the Republic and those indicated in the Organic Constitutional Law of States of Exception. The state of catastrophe authorizes the President of the Republic to ‘restrict’ freedom of movement and freedom of assembly. The President can also order the requisition of goods, impose limitations on the exercise of property rights, and ‘adopt every extraordinary measure of administrative character that is necessary for the prompt restoration of normality in the affected area’ (Article 43) .

9.  To respond to the pandemic, the President of the Republic declared a state of catastrophe on 18 March 2020. This was done by Decree 104 of 2020, of the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security.2 This declaration designated the entire country as being under a ‘public calamity’ for 90 days. The declaration has been extended thrice, for 90 days, on 16 June, 12 September, and 12 November 2020.

10.  The declaration of a state of catastrophe did not entail suspension of the operation of the National Congress or any restriction on access to courts.

11.  Chile is a party to the American Convention of Human Rights.3 On 27 March 2020, by note 37/2020, the country communicated to the General Secretary of the Organization of American States its decision to derogate from the Convention in respect to Article 15 (freedom of assembly) and Article 22 (freedom of movement).4

12.  The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR) were promulgated in Chile by Decree 230 of 2008, of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. It did not impose amendments to the Sanitary Code 1967, Chile’s main piece of public health legislation. The Chilean Government has quoted WHO recommendations on a number of occasions during the pandemic, including within Decree 104, Decree 4 declaring a public health alert, and within some of the public health protocols issued by the Ministry of Public Health.5

B.  Statutory provisions

13.  No new general law has been introduced providing emergency powers to respond to Covid-19. The Government has relied almost exclusively on pre-existing legislation for the primary public health measures. The Sanitary Code 1967 has been the main legal body for this. It does not provide comprehensive regulation in respect to infectious diseases. It only contains fragmented provisions that have been invoked by the government as a basis for its response through decrees and administrative regulations. The main provision used by the Government is Article 36, which states that ‘when a part of the territory is threatened or invaded by an epidemic or by a notable rise of any disease, or when emergencies occur that entail a grave risk for the health and life of the inhabitants, the President of the Republic, with a prior report by the National Health Service, can confer extraordinary powers to a Director General of Health the spread of disease or to face the emergency’6. It is important to notice that there is no systematic correlation between the extraordinary powers conferred by the Sanitary Code and the Constitution. They are overlapping sources of public health power that can be taken by the Government to justify an indeterminate set of measures. Moreover, the position of the Director General of Health currently corresponds to both the Undersecretary of Public Health and the Undersecretary of Public Health Networks, authorities directly appointed by the President of the Republic and who are subordinate to the Minister of Health.

C.  Executive rule-making powers

14.  Executive rule-making powers have played a preponderant role in the response to the Covid-19 crisis. The Chilean Constitution grants the President of the Republic the power to enact administrative regulations in matters not reserved to statutes and also to enact the ‘decrees and instructions that he deems convenient to the execution of the laws’ (Article 32(6)). This is a very broad regulatory power exercised with the agreement of the ministers competent in the specific subject-matter (Article 35). All decrees promulgated by the President of the Republic are called ‘supreme decrees’ regardless of their content, which can be either an individualized order or a general rule.

15.  Subordinate administrative bodies also issue administrative regulations. For instance, ministries can enact binding regulations called ‘resolutions’ (resoluciones) within their remit, which can be either rules of general observance or measures aimed at individual cases. Municipalities can also enact ‘ordinances’ (ordenanzas) within their territorial remit that are subordinate to laws. These may pertain to a wide array of subjects, such as: public order, urban planning, and commercial activities within a city.

16.  In general, the duration of administrative regulations is indefinite. They have legal force until they are derogated, unless a term limit or a condition is introduced. Moreover, the government can easily reduce or extend their duration. For instance, the duration of Decree 4 (see Part II.C, para 19 below) is of one year but according to the Decree’s Article 10 its duration can be extended if sanitary conditions do not improve. Generally speaking, decrees are of a more general nature and more stable than resolutions, as the latter deal with more specific and variable circumstances. The response to the Covid-19 crisis has been focused mainly on resolutions (see Part IV.A below).

17.  There is no congressional scrutiny of supreme decrees and regulations in the Chilean constitutional system. However, the Office of the Comptroller-General—an independent specialized body—scrutinizes these administrative regulations exclusively on legal grounds before promulgation. This legality review procedure is mandatory for presidential decrees, among other administrative regulations. In general, ministerial resolutions are also subject to this legality review procedure, however some are excluded. These are called ‘exempted resolutions’ (resoluciones exentas) and they have played a central role during the pandemic, as seen below (see Part IV.A below).

18.  The Chilean government declared a public health emergency in February 2020 by Decree 4 of 2020, which has been extended and modified a number of times. This decree was issued by the Minister of Health, by order of the President of the Republic, without any intervention of the National Congress. However, the Comptroller-General Office legally reviewed this decree before its promulgation. The main legal basis for this decree is Article 36 of the Sanitary Code, as noted in Part II.B above.

19.  The main general regulation in response to the pandemic is Decree 4 of 2020 that declared a public health alert for Covid-19. This is a decree signed by the Minister of Health by order of the President of the Republic. This regulation confers on the Undersecretary of Public Health and on the Undersecretary of Public Health Networks the following powers:

  • •  To lift restrictions in order to recruit and allocate medical personnel. These restrictions include prohibitions of hiring retired personnel or students of medicine, and limitations to the transfer of personnel from one hospital to another;

  • •  To acquire and allocate equipment and drugs;

  • •  To communicate new public health measures to the public using mass media;

  • •  To supply medicine, medical devices, and other sanitizing elements to specific groups;

  • •  To make mandatory the use of face masks and other medical devices on public transport, in classrooms, in workplaces, and, in general, in any other place of public access or where an agglomeration of people might exist;

  • •  To cap the prices to be charged to the general public for pharmaceutical products, medical devices, sanitary elements, health services, and every other good and service needed to meet health needs;

  • •  To ration the number of goods and services to be provided to a single person;

  • •  To directly import medicines, medical materials and inputs, and medical devices needed to fulfil the powers this decree grants;

  • •  To transfer goods acquired by the Ministry to public health services. This may include ventilators and similar equipment, and is a relevant addition because the Ministry and public health services are two different legal entities normally procuring goods separately.

20.  Similar powers are granted to the regional offices of the Ministry of Health. These bodies were also granted, among others, the following powers:

  • •  To close establishments and workplaces that may be hazardous to workers or customers;

  • •  To order people to avoid mass gatherings;

  • •  To track and trace people exposed to Covid-19;

  • •  To reject entry to foreigners without residence in Chile and who are infected or suspected of being infected;

  • •  To suspend educational activities and large indoor gatherings;

  • •  To temporarily prohibit the landing of planes or vessels.

21.  The Government has also used another form of administrative regulation called exempted resolutions. They are issued by a minister and are exempt from the legality review. They have been used to implement the policy of partial and dynamic lockdowns so that each week the government can define the restrictions that apply to a commune using such resolutions, the number of which has reached around a 100 in 2020. In addition, in July 2020 the Government issued Exempted Resolution 591 of the Ministry of Health, that created a five-tier system of restrictions.

22.  Beyond the centralized measures adopted by the Ministry of Health, many municipalities have enacted municipal ordinances regulating issues ranging from the mandatory use of face coverings to the closure of industries and commerce, and the prohibition of entry to specific localities. The legal grounds for enacting these ordinances are very fragile, and they have been subject to critical scrutiny by the Office of the Comptroller-General. The Office has found them unlawful insofar as they depart from central government policy, since the Constitution allocates emergency powers exclusively to the President of the Republic.

23.  The most important judicial challenges against Covid-19 government policies have centred on decisions not to impose lockdowns as opposed to challenges to the previously mentioned administrative measures (see Part III.C below).

D.  Guidance

24.  Most of the Government measures have been formalized in legal instruments. They are therefore binding and any infringement can be punished. Despite numerous instances of misinformation by government officials in press briefings, there has been no major confusion between guidance and law. Guidance has taken the form of instructions and protocols and has covered issues such as adaptation of schools and nurseries to the Covid-19 context, and recommendations for holidaymakers.7 These instruments are clearly non-binding and have not taken the form of decrees or resolutions.

25.  Although the regulation of travel exemptions is not strictly guidance, it is a subject difficult to classify in legal terms. It is not guidance as it is binding. But the instruments that regulate travel exemptions do not take the form of decrees or resolutions. They are merely protocols or instructions issued by the Ministry of Interior and Public Security, and published on its website.8 These instruments are very detailed regulations of the types of travel restrictions in place and the existing permits to waive them. Even though they do not have a formal legal source, applications to obtain these permits are considered mandatory and have to be made online through specially designed websites.9

III.  Institutions and Oversight

A.  The role of legislatures in supervising the executive

26.  As noted in Part II.C above, there is no ongoing legislative oversight of presidential rule-making powers in Chile. Moreover, the National Congress did not pass new general public health legislation to control the pandemic. In other words, most of the executive public health response has been carried out without the direct involvement of the National Congress. In relation to public health, the executive has relied on pre-existing legislation and, therefore, there has been no need to obtain fresh authorization from the legislature.

27.  It is important to notice that the regulatory powers of the Government are quite independent from the National Congress. Indeed, the Congress cannot directly terminate a decree or resolution. To do so, it has to repeal the law on which the decree was enacted. Also, the regulatory powers of the Government do not need renewal by Congress. Just as the President of the Republic declared a public health alert for Covid-19 based on Article 36 of the Sanitary Code, he can terminate or extend that declaration and the powers associated to it, without further involvement by Congress. Even the Constitutional State of Exception of Catastrophe can be renewed by the President of the Republic with no need of congressional approval within some temporal limits (see Part II.A above).

28.  However, Congress has engaged more intensively in negotiation about administrative powers in social security, economic aid programmes, and other matters related to the social and economic response to the pandemic. Despite its significant regulatory and legislative powers, the executive has encountered enormous difficulties in obtaining legislative approval for its economic plans. Firstly, the Constitution requires legislation to authorize new expenditure, so the Government cannot use its regulatory powers to this end. Secondly, the Government does not control the National Congress, which is controlled by opposition parties. Lastly, even though the Constitution grants the President powers to control the legislative agenda—for instance, only the President has the power of initiative to propose new spending—Congress has evaded restrictions through political manoeuvrings, such as narrowly interpreting presidential initiative rules and approving ad hoc constitutional rules that are not limited by presidential restrictions. The cause of this frequent gridlock relates to the underlying political crisis the country has been undergoing since October 2019.

29.  Since 18 October 2019, Chile has witnessed massive riots and public protests. An initial student protest in response to a small rise in public transport fees became violent protests against economic policy and inequality more generally. The government reacted by declaring a Constitutional State of Exception of Emergency, and deploying military personnel in the streets for the first time since the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1980s. This exacerbated the discontent and triggered even more massive and violent public protest. The military and the police were unable to control the unrest, and even aggravated the problem by a disproportionate use of force and many instances of police brutality. This led to an unprecedented social and political crisis, which was partially assuaged by the Agreement for Social Peace and a New Constitution reached by a wide spectrum of political parties on November 2019. This agreement was reached by the main political parties and consisted of a commitment to stop violence and initiate a constitution-making process. Despite this agreement, political support for the Government reached the lowest levels ever recorded, and its policy-making capacity has been significantly undermined. Enormous political fragmentation within both the governing coalition and the opposition has led to political gridlock in the National Congress.

30.  As noted in Part II.A above, the Chilean Constitution imposes a duty on the President of the Republic to report to Congress on the measures adopted to deal with a calamity during a state of catastrophe. However, there has been no official report to Congress to fulfil this duty. Rather, the Government has been reporting on the measures adopted to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate’s legislative commissions as they discuss specific bills related to the pandemic, particularly on the economic stimulus plans. Thus, no special commission has monitored the state of catastrophe in general, but the Government has been providing Congress information on the bills being discussed.

31.  Using its constitutional power (Article 52(1) of the Constitution), between May and October 2020, the Chamber of Deputies established five Special Investigative Commissions charged with scrutinizing the following matters: (a) government measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, and government measures during the pandemic in relation to public health, the economy, and public order (joint commissions 47 and 48);10 (b) government measures that may have entailed an artificial reduction in death record reports (commission 50);11 (c) government measures in relation to the rise in electricity prices during the pandemic (commission 51);12 and (d) government measures in relation to quarantine facilities (commission 53).13 These commissions are bipartisan committees that can be established by a two-fifths vote in the Chamber of Deputies to gather information on the government’s activities. The final reports were published between late November and mid-December 2020, they summarized the main findings, and provided the majority opinion about government performance. Three out the four reports were highly critical of the government response to the Covid-19 emergency. Yet the main problem with these reports is that their conclusions are highly partisan, with each report providing a majority and minority opinion along political lines.

32.  The Chilean Constitution also provides an extraordinary instrument to hold the executive branch to account, namely the impeachment of ministers of state, among other causes, for violations of the Constitution or the law or for failing to execute the laws (Article 52(2)). This is an exceptional device as, normally, ministers serve at the pleasure of the President, who can appoint and remove them at will (Articles 32(7) and 33). Despite stepping down from his post in June 2020 after widespread criticism of his management of the pandemic, former Minister of Health Jaime Mañalich was subject to impeachment proceedings on September 2020 on two charges: (i) infringement of the constitutional rights to life and health for lack of due preparation for the pandemic, insufficient isolation of infected patients, confusing communication to the public, and poor support of people living with HIV; and (ii) infringement of the constitutional principle of transparency of public information, for concealing data about the ministry’s management of the pandemic. 14 However, on 13 October the Chamber of Deputies rejected the charges in a very close vote of 73 to 71.

B.  The functioning of the legislature where its ordinary business is disrupted

33.  The Chilean Congress has been in operation throughout the whole duration of the pandemic, having rapidly passed a law providing a constitutional amendment that enabled the remote operation of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The final chapter of the Chilean Constitution contains ‘transitory dispositions’ which include both rules that are of a temporary nature and rules that facilitate legal transitions when constitutional changes are made. Law 21,219, published on 26 March 2020, inserted a new 32nd transitory disposition into the Constitution providing that, for a period of one year, the chambers could meet, vote on bills, statutes, and constitutional amendments, and exercise their exclusive powers, using a remote system15. The remote system must ensure that the vote of parliamentarians is personal, motivated, and non-delegable. Later, Law 21,237, published on 30 May, introduced a new constitutional amendment to authorize the remote operation of the Plenary in Congress—a joint session of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.16

34.  Beyond some blunders—including senators drinking wine during a session and impolite words uttered in the belief that microphones were off—there have been no reports of problems in the remote operation of Congress during the pandemic, nor any significant complaints about the fairness of its operations by members of opposition parties.

C.  Role of and access to courts

35.  The adaptation of the operation of the courts has involved new legislation and managerial changes prompted by the Supreme Court. Law 21,226, published on 2 April 2020, sought to tackle the more urgent problems that courts were facing as a result of the pandemic.17 It first granted the Supreme Court the power to suspend judicial hearings in the ordinary courts when they could not take place without affecting the right to be heard, publicity, and other due process guarantees (Article 1) as a result of pandemic restrictions imposed by the authorities. The Supreme Court was empowered to suspend individual or group hearings, across the civil, family, criminal, and labour justice systems, during the period in which the declaration of a state of catastrophe was in force. The Law allowed the remote operation of courts to carry out hearings that could not be suspended, ensuring that constitutional due process rights were respected (Article 10). Law 21,226 also provided that tribunals that were not under the administration of the Supreme Court could also suspend hearings, with the exception of those cases in which judicial intervention was urgent (Article 2). Finally, Law 21,226 granted extensions of time limits and recognized litigators’ justifications for not appearing before the courts due to Covid-19 impediments. An additional bill was introduced in Congress in September 2020 to provide a deeper, more ambitious reform of the judicial system to respond to the pandemic.18 However, the legislative progress of this bill has been slow.

36.  Beyond the framework regulation provided by Law 21,226, the Supreme Court has enacted most of the detailed rules governing the functioning of the courts. In exercising its constitutional duty to oversee the operation of the judiciary (Article 82) and using the additional powers granted by Law 21,226, the Supreme Court has issued a number of internal regulations regarding the remote operation of the courts and public health measures at the courts’ premises19.

37.  As Law 21,226 postponed non-urgent hearings, a large backlog of cases ensued in the civil justice system.20 In the early months, an avalanche of cases was expected once the initial suspensions of hearings were lifted. In family law matters, most of the urgent cases reaching the courts were related to domestic abuse (47% of the caseload), followed by parent-child related cases (27%).21 However, things rapidly changed on 30 July 2020 when Congress approved Law 21,248 that allowed people to withdraw 10% from their pension funds as a form of economic aid in the pandemic context22. This has, unintentionally, resulted in an enormous number of petitions for alimony and child support that were close to collapsing the family courts. The pandemic has also seriously affected the labour law courts, producing severe delays that have exacerbated pre-existing problems in the system.23

38.  Arguably the pandemic has had the most serious impact on the criminal justice system. Between March and May 2020, 3,663 trials were postponed as public defenders argued against the use of remote hearings in criminal trials.24 This caused an open disagreement between the Public Defense Office and the judiciary. Defenders were protesting, for example, because of poor audio and because of unjustified variations in criteria among different courts about the use of video and audio technology in cross-examinations. As thousands of trials were postponed, an enormous delay and backlog was expected for the future. Some defenders have brought cases to the Constitutional Tribunal, arguing that Law 21,226 infringes on the Constitution in not allowing suspension of final hearing criminal law trials, forcing them to be conducted online.25 The Constitutional Tribunal ruled on one of these cases, declaring the rule that allows courts to suspend final hearings unconstitutional only when there is an ‘absolute’ infringement of the right to defence. The due process considerations require that the courts hold the power to suspend oral trials even when there is a partial impact on the right to defence.26

39.  The courts have remained open for judicial review claims throughout the pandemic. In fact, Article 45 of the Constitution explicitly provides that although courts of justice cannot examine either the motives or the facts behind a declaration of a state of exception, there is always a right to judicial review in respect to particular measures that may affect constitutional rights.

40.  Most of the challenges took place during the initial months of the pandemic and were directed at government inaction, namely, the government’s decision not to declare broad lockdowns in some communes and cities. The Supreme Court has consistently rejected dozens of claims, arguing that the Constitution places public health decisions under the executive discretion, and that judges cannot examine the merit of political decisions.27 In one controversial case, the Constitutional Tribunal declared the inapplicability of a rule of the Penal Code 1874 relating to Public Health (see Part IV.B below).28

D.  Elections

41.  As noted in Part I above, the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in Chile in the midst of a constitutional crisis. After heated debate, on 24 December 2019 a constitutional amendment established an electoral itinerary to initiate a constitution-making process to replace the Constitution imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship in 1980.29 The first stage of the process was a plebiscite to be held on 26 April 2020, in which the citizens were to be asked whether they wanted a new Constitution. As a result of the pandemic, however, the electoral process in general was postponed for at least six months. In fact, Law 21,221, published on 26 March 2020, amended the Constitution to establish that the first plebiscite in the constitution-making process was to take place six months later, on 25 October. 30 This Law also postponed local government and regional government elections to April 2021. No other elections have been postponed on public health grounds during the pandemic.

42.  The idea of again rescheduling the plebiscite on public health grounds, or even on economic grounds, was considered at various points between March and September 2020 as the pandemic continued to spread. Although the government suggested rescheduling several times, the opposition was adamant in rejecting the proposal. Eventually, the government and opposition agreed on conferring broad powers to the Electoral Service (Servel)—a constitutionally autonomous body in charge of the operation of elections—to adopt preventive measures and carry out the plebiscite and future elections that may take place during the pandemic. Law 21,257, published on 27 August, amended the Constitution and gave Servel the power to issue regulations to protect public health during the plebiscite, for example, by making the use of face coverings mandatory, ordering social distancing rules, setting a maximum capacity at the polling facilities, and so on.31

43.  A connected debate ensued in relation to the right to vote of people infected as they could be prosecuted for committing a public health crime according to the Chilean Penal Code. Despite several calls to allow remote ways to cast the vote, the government did not take any action on this. After Servel issued its regulations on public health during the plebiscite,32 a claim was filed at the Electoral Court (Tribunal Calificador de Elecciones) against Servel for not duly protecting the right to vote of people infected with Covid-19. The Electoral Court upheld the Servel regulation asserting that there was a ‘constitutional conflict between the right to vote and the right to health’ and that Servel was not allowed to affect public health policy defined by the Ministry of Health.33 Accordingly, the Public Prosecution Office issued guidance establishing that they would arrest and prosecute any infected persons who were found outdoors even if they were attempting to cast their vote.34

44.  On 25 October 2020, the referendum was finally held with an overwhelming majority of the vote in favour of rewriting the Constitution—78% of the electorate approved the proposal of drafting a new Constitution, while 22% expressed a preference for the current one. Public opinion was concerned about the electoral turnout for the referendum considering that many cities in the country were still under lockdown. However, despite the ample restrictions in place the turnout was slightly greater than the last presidential election in 2017 (51% compared to 49%).35

E.  Scientific advice

45.  The Covid-19 Advisory Committee (Consejo Asesor Covid-19) is a body comprising experts from academia and officers from the Ministry of Health.36 The Committee is responsible for guiding the Ministry on policies to deal with Covid-19 at different stages. The Advisory Committee is of a temporary nature as it was convened exclusively for the purposes of dealing with the current pandemic. There is neither legislation nor decrees setting up the Committee or appointing its members and its advice does not bind Government. Due to its ad hoc nature, fragile legal structure, and the fact that some members are public officers, this Committee cannot be considered as fully independent from Government. The minutes produced by the Committee are published and available on its website.

46.  In an environment of political crisis and high distrust of Government, there was a need to set up an additional ‘social’ committee that could monitor and provide advice to the executive in the response to the pandemic. On 22 March 2020, the Government itself set up such a body called the ‘Social Roundtable’ which is comprised of central government authorities, mayors, and academics.37 The highly critical College of Physicians also participated in this roundtable, making public its own minutes for each session.38

F.  Freedom of the press and freedom of information

47.  There is no indication of any restrictions on press reporting by the Government during the pandemic.

48.  In March 2020, the Council for Transparency, an independent freedom of information watchdog, issued guidance recommending the government to strengthen the publicity of information about the spread of the pandemic39. Later the body clarified that some of the requirements were legal duties, while others were mere recommendations to improve transparency and facilitate freedom of information. Since then it has continued monitoring compliance with freedom of information duties and providing guidance to introduce flexibility in the implementation of the law during the pandemic.

G.  Ombuds and oversight bodies

49.  The main body with responsibility to audit and to oversee the legality of administrative action in Chile is the Office of the Comptroller-General.40 An independent authority in the country, this office performs several accountability functions in respect of the executive branch, including financial audits, ex-ante legality review of decrees and resolutions, and providing binding legal interpretations of the laws governing the public sector. The Comptroller-General is appointed by the President of the Republic with the assent of the Senate, and holds office for an eight-year period. They can only be removed by the National Congress after impeachment proceedings. This office has played an important role during the crisis.41 By exercising its legal interpretation power, it has issued binding rulings that have facilitated administrative adaptation to the pandemic, for example interpreting that public officers could work remotely without further legislative changes. A ruling also provided that, according to the Constitution, the central responsibility during an emergency lies with the central government, therefore municipalities were not allowed to adopt measures that could restrict fundamental rights, such as freedom of movement.42 The Office has also carried out audit activities in relation to the management of the figures of deaths during the pandemic and has closely monitored the delivery of goods and social aid by state bodies. Importantly, the Office of the Comptroller-General also performs mandatory, ex-ante legality review of decrees. In one of the most controversial cases, the Office forced the government to adjust a supreme decree that granted wide enforcement power to the military during the pandemic.43 The Comptroller-General ruled that the Government was not allowed to grant new powers to administrative bodies by decree without further legislative authorization, and that the decree could not be interpreted as shifting Armed Forces’ subordination to the civil authorities.

50.  However, an important limitation in the Office’s constitutional role resides in the fact that most public regulations enacted by the Ministry of Health have taken the legal form of exempted resolutions, which are not under the mandatory, ex-ante control of the Office of the Comptroller-General (see Part II above). As will be seen in Part IV.A below, some of the most intrusive measures have been taken by the Government through these ‘exempted resolutions’, which amount to more than a 100 during 2020. However, it is worth mentioning that exempted resolutions are the legal instrument regularly used by the Ministry of Health to take public health measures—this is not an ad hoc strategy based exclusively on Covid-19 considerations. Also, the Government does not decide on whether an administrative measure is exempted or not. Rules on exemption to the ex-ante legality review are set by legislation and the Office of the Comptroller-General itself. Finally, the Comptroller-General's scrutiny can be demanding, substantive, and time-consuming, so it is politically consequential whether an administrative regulation is subject to legality review or not.

IV.  Public Health Measures, Enforcement and Compliance

A.  Public health measures

51.  The public health measures adopted by the Chilean Government have relied heavily on pre-existing legislation. As noted in Part II.B below, no new general piece of public health legislation was enacted to respond to the pandemic. The measures adopted were based mostly on the Sanitary Code 1967, and were specified through administrative regulation.

1.  Individual mobility restrictions on citizens (stay-at-home, curfews, etc)

52.  Mobility restrictions in Chile were imposed by exempted resolutions of the Ministry of Health. The first in Chile were announced on 20 March 2020. They consisted of a general quarantine of 14 days and applied only to the Eastern Island by Exempted Resolution 194 of the Ministry of Health. A week later further restrictions were introduced consisting of curfew between 10pm–5am across the entire country and general quarantine measures in seven out of 32 communes in Santiago and other selected communes in other regions,44 formalized in Exempted Resolution 215 of the Ministry of Health. Thereafter, mobility restrictions were highly variable, as the Ministry decided day-by-day if the restrictions would be extended to new communes. The Government called its policy ‘dynamic quarantines’, reflecting the attitude of avoiding restrictions of economic activity as much as possible. Each ministerial resolution contained the specific regulations applied to the respective general ‘quarantine’, with very little variation. But the resolutions became increasingly complex and detailed as the pandemic spread. Typically, the initial resolutions provided that all the residents in defined communes must stay at home for a renewable seven-day period. The only exceptions admitted were those indicated by instructions issued by the Ministry of Interior and Public Security about travel exemptions (permisos de desplazamiento) with no discernible legal form (discussed at Part II.D above).45 This guidance required people to obtain a permit from the police (Carabineros de Chile) remotely or in person, to carry out activities such as attending an appointment with a doctor (24 hours); essential shopping (4 hours); and taking a pet outdoors (30 minutes). The only stipulation about enforcement in the resolutions was a generic reference to the sanctions contained in the Sanitary Code 1967 and the Penal Code 1874, which involve fines and prison sentences, respectively.

53.  This strategy of ‘dynamic quarantines’ seemed to be working well during the first weeks of the pandemic. For instance, preliminary data showed that they reduced transmission by 30%.46 In fact, in late April 2020 the government even announced a policy of ‘safe return’ as Covid-19 figures seemed low and stable.47 This did not entail the promulgation of new decrees or resolutions. In May, however, the picture changed dramatically, and figures soared. Reacting to increasing public pressure and rising figures, on 13 May 2020 the government announced a shift from ‘dynamic quarantines’ affecting specific communes to a general complete quarantine across the whole city of Santiago and thereafter mobility restrictions were extended to practically the whole country until mid-August.48 The Ministry of Health introduced this broader quarantine by Exempted Resolution 347. At this point, new resolutions with similar, but not identical, rules were published every day, indicating whether a commune was in or out of the regime of restrictive measures.

54.  After the controversial former Minister of Health, Jaime Mañalich, stepped down in June 2020, the government adopted a new approach to mobility restriction measures. Mañalich was the target of severe criticism from opposition parties for lack of dialogue and for confusion regarding Covid-19 death figures.49 Under a new Minister of Health, on 25 July, the Ministry published Exempted Resolution 591, which established the ‘step-by-step’ five stage-policy in relation to public health measures. In stage one, there would be a ‘full quarantine’, ie a strict stay-at-home order with the only exemptions being basic shopping and essential work provided for in the updated version of Ministry of Interior and Public Security guidance.50 In stage two, the restrictive measures would be in place only during weekends, while in stages three, four, and five, there would be no restrictive mobility measures. However, they did include a variety of restrictions on gatherings, events, the opening of facilities, and use of face coverings (see Part IV.A.3 and Part IV.A.4 below). Decisions about which stage applies to each commune was defined by an ‘exempted resolution’ published weekly by the Ministry of Health. This framework represented an improvement as it set out a more stable framework of rules in the country. These are the rules currently in force at time of writing.

55.  In addition to stay-at-home measures, since March 2020 ‘exempted resolutions’ have also provided for curfews from 10pm–5am. In later months, the curfew has been slightly relaxed and from November onwards it has been in place between midnight to 5am in most of the country. Another restriction was that people over 80 years old—later reduced to over 75—were under absolute confinement from March 2020, with almost no exemptions, although this was somewhat relaxed in the following months. In fact, from September 2020 people over 75 years old were under the same rules as the rest of the population. After the implementation of the ‘step-by-step’ policy, restrictions to the mobility of children and adolescents were also slowly relaxed as they were allowed outdoors for short periods, under parental supervision, after obtaining a permit from the police. Previously, children had not been exempted from the stay-at-home measures.

2.  Restrictions on international and internal travel

56.  Restrictions on international travel were imposed by Exempted Resolution 180, on 17 March 2020. This regulation required passengers arriving from Iran, China, Germany, France, Spain, South Korea, and Japan to self-isolate upon arrival in Chile for a period of 14 days. This was progressively extended to new countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru by later resolutions. Similarly, on 16 March, Supreme Decree 102, of the Ministry of Interior and Public Security, provided that from 19 March onwards, for five days, all borders would be closed for the transit of ‘foreigners’ into national territory.51 Chileans and foreigners with regular residence in the country were exempted from this restriction. This decree has been extended on a weekly basis since April 2020. Thus, these measures were adopted by an administrative act of higher legal status than exempted resolutions because supreme decrees are issued by the President of the Republic while resolutions are issued by ministers, (as discussed at Part II.C above). On 12 November 2020, in the context of increasing relaxation of mobility restriction measures, the Government modified Supreme Decree 102 to allow transit of foreigners into national territory exclusively through Arturo Merino Benítez Airport, the main international airport in Chile.52

57.  There were specific measures restraining travel between areas within the country. During the pandemic exempted resolutions of the Ministry of Health have imposed ‘sanitary cordons’ applicable to specific communes or provinces.53 The only exceptions to these restrictions applied to the movement of people whose work was indispensable to the supply of provisions in the zone, the delivery of critical services—which remained unspecified—, and sanitary services. Since late March, exempted resolutions also prohibited people from visiting their second home, which further restricted mobility within the country.54 Therefore, mobility among regions of Chile has been severely affected.

3.  Limitations on public and private gatherings and events

58.  Public gatherings were restricted even before the first mobility restrictions were announced. On 17 March 2020, Exempted Resolution 180 prohibited public events with more than 200 people for two weeks. On 25 March 2020, by Exempted Resolution 203, the prohibition was extended to public events with more than 50 people for an indefinite period of time. Once mobility restrictions were extended all over the country (see Part IV.A.1 above), these measures did not exhibit much change.

59.  Once the new ‘step-by-step’ policy was introduced by Exempted Resolution 591 in July, the rules became more complex, varying the limitations depending on the stage a commune was classified as being in. In stage one, all gatherings were prohibited using broad language, including ‘social and recreational activities’ and ‘sport activities and events’. But at the following stages, rules were relaxed depending on the type of activity (either ‘social and recreational’ or ‘sports’) and the type of venue (outdoors or indoors). For instance, initially, in stage three social and recreational gatherings were limited to 50 individuals indoors and 100 outdoors, while in stage four, social and recreational gatherings were extended to 100 and 200 individuals, respectively. Thus, harsher restrictions were imposed on indoor activities.

4.  Closure of premises and facilities (eg schools, shops, services, parks, churches, sport facilities)

60.  Activities in nurseries and schools were suspended on 17 March 2020 by Exempted Resolution 180, which was among the first measures adopted by authorities. This measure was to last two weeks but was extended by later resolutions.55 It was explicitly provided that the operation of educational activities could continue only in a remote manner. Under the ‘step-by-step’ scheme, Exemption Resolution 591 provided that the Ministry of Education could lift the restrictions to individual schools after a sanitary assessment.56 During the first months of the policy, despite increasing interest in opening more schools from the Ministry of Education, few schools asked for the lifting of restrictions. Only in October, application figures rose to approximately 1,014 requests, yet most educational activity continues online.57

61.  From 20 March 2020 onwards, the Ministry of Health ordered the closure of cinemas, theatres, pubs, discotheques, cabarets, nightclubs, gyms open to the public, and analogous venues. Restaurants were also prohibited, with the exception of the selling of take-away food.58 In July, under the ‘step-by-step’ policy, further nuance was introduced. According to this framework, restrictions would vary depending on the stage in which a facility was located.59 In stages one and two, the full prohibition applied. In stage three, restaurants, cafes, and analogous venues were allowed to operate, but in open spaces only, at up to 25% of their capacity or keeping two meters of distance among the tables. In stage four, cinemas, theatres, and analogous venues could operate, without food and drinks, at up to 50% of capacity, and keeping one meter of distance between individuals. Gyms were also allowed to open under strict rules on capacity limits and distancing with no use of changing rooms. In stage five, rules for the operation of cinemas and theatres, restaurants and cafes, pubs, discotheques, and gyms were further relaxed allowing for larger capacity and more activities.

5.  Physical distancing

62.  Although there was official guidance in the beginning of the pandemic recommending physical distancing of one meter, only in July 2020 did Exempted Resolution 591 introduce the rule as legally mandatory. This regulation accepted the following five exceptions: people living in the same household; people on public transport; people who cannot keep distance because of the nature of their work; people doing activities of a nature that impede complying with the rule; and when there is a physical barrier between people.60

6.  Use of face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE)

63.  The mandatory usage of face coverings was initially instituted by local governments (municipalities), not the central government. As there are 346 municipalities in the country, this was a highly decentralized policy with each city setting out its own rules. For example, the Municipality of Viña del Mar, in the region of Valparaiso published an Ordinance making compulsory the use of face coverings in public spaces on the 25 May 2020. The fine for infringing this order was up to 150,000 Chilean pesos (approximately USD $200)61.

64.  Later, in July 2020, Exempted Resolution 591 introduced a centralized and more comprehensive regulation of face coverings. This regulation made it mandatory to use face coverings on public transport, in closed premises whatever the nature of the space or the activities carried out therein, and in the city-streets. The resolution also defined face covering as ‘any piece that covers nose and mouth to impede the spread of the virus, either handcrafted or industrially made’.62

7.  Isolation of infected individuals and quarantine of individuals suspected of infection

65.  Exempted Resolution 203, published on 25 March 2020, introduced the first comprehensive regulation of ‘isolation or quarantine of determined persons’ as opposed to a focus on ‘locations’.63 The isolation or quarantine for 14 days applied to persons with a positive test, persons that took the test and were awaiting the results, and those who had been in close contact with infected people. This latter category was defined as people who were in contact with an infected person and (a) had face-to-face contact for more than a minute with less than one metre distance between them; (b) shared a closed space for two hours or more; (c) stayed overnight together; or (d) commuted in less than one metre proximity.

66.  The resolution also ordered that people who breached the aforementioned rules would be forcibly moved to special accommodations to comply with the isolation or quarantine, together with the application of Sanitary Code 1967 and Penal Code 1874 sanctions.64 The police, military personnel, or ministry of health inspectors, with no need of further judicial authorization, implemented these orders.

67.  In July 2020, Exempted Resolution 591 introduced a more detailed framework defining and distinguishing asymptomatic cases, suspected cases, and probable cases. Each of these situations has its own rules.65 For instance, a person who exhibits symptoms must isolate for 11 days from the date symptoms began, while an asymptomatic person must isolate for 11 days from the they took a PCR test. The resolution also listed the Covid-19 symptoms that would be taken as a basis for classifying cases and, eventually, placing persons in mandatory isolation. Among the listed symptoms, the following were mentioned: cough, respiratory distress, chest pain, sore throat, muscle pain, chills, headache, diarrhoea, smell blindness, and loss of taste.

8.  Testing, treatment, and vaccination

68.  Positive PCR tests are officially recognized as the key factor for ordering the isolation of individuals. Exempted Resolution 591 says that persons diagnosed with Covid-19 through a PCR test shall quarantine for 11 days (originally it was for 14 days).66 This resolution also sets the maximum price for PCR tests within the country at 25,000 Chilean pesos (USD $35).67 This is fully refunded for users of the state health insurance system (Fondo Nacional de Salud or FONASA) which corresponds to around 80% of the population.

69.  Between March and December 2020, a medical prescription was generally required for PCR tests. The justification for this was that medical prescription facilitated information about new cases and was centralized, as the doctors had a duty to electronically report to the Ministry of Health. On 10 December, however, the Ministry of Health relaxed the policy allowing people to take PCR tests without a medical prescription in order to facilitate Covid-19 detection.68 This was done by a new instruction issued by the Undersecretary of Health Networks that ‘reiterated’ that it was possible to take a PCR test without medical prescription.69 A week later, the same authority insisted that ‘it was always recommended’ to consult to a doctor in case of Covid-19 symptoms.70

70.  Article 32 of the Sanitary Code 1967 states that the President of the Republic, after a proposal by the Director General of Health, may declare mandatory vaccination of the population against communicable diseases for which there are effective immunization procedures. The specific list of diseases for which vaccination is mandatory in Chile is defined by Exempted Decree 6 of the Ministry of Health.71 Thus far, this decree does not include mandatory vaccination for Covid-19. But it is worth mentioning that the Supreme Court has already supported mandatory vaccination in cases heard in the last decade.72 In these cases, parents refused to vaccine their children, and hospital directors brought them to court to impose the vaccination. The Supreme Court decisions were based on the right to life, the right to health, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

9.  Contact tracing procedures

71.  Rules about contact tracing are contained in Exempted Resolution 591. Section 10 states that ‘persons who have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with Covid-19 must quarantine for 14 days counted from the last day of contact’. This section adds that a negative PCR test ‘does not exempt the person from total compliance with the quarantine’. Moreover, according to this section of, a contact is considered ‘close’ when (i) individuals were face-to-face for more than 15 minutes, at a distance shorter than one meter, and without face covering; (ii) individuals were indoors for two hours or more, in places such as offices, workplaces, and schools, without face coverings; (iii) individuals lived together or stayed overnight together; and (iv) individuals commuted together at a proximity of less than one meter, without face coverings.

72.  In April, during the initial months of the pandemic, then-Minister of Health Jaime Mañalich announced, but never implemented, a sanitary pass to people who had recovered from Covid-19.73 This pass would waive every mobility restriction on these people. The medical community criticized the measure cautioning that there was no scientific evidence supporting it.74 Eventually, the Minister of Health decided to call off the implementation of the pass given the risk of discrimination against the people holding it.75

10.  Measures in long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, restrictions of visitors etc.

73.  Some of the first measures taken by the government concerned residential care for the elderly. Exempted Resolution 180, published on 17 March 2020, prohibited visits to nursing homes, and suspended all activities in social centres for the elderly76. These measures were extended by subsequent ministerial resolutions, including Exempted Resolution 591, which included the same measures in the general framework it provided.77

B.  Enforcement and Compliance

1.  Enforcement

74.  Enforcement was based on pre-existing Sanitary Code 1967 rules that allow the Ministry of Health to apply fines for behaviour that put public health at risk. Additionally, the government has widely used the Penal Code 1874 as an enforcement tool. This strategy has a high symbolic effect, because in practice a significant number of cases are eventually dismissed by the courts.

75.  The police (Carabineros de Chile) have performed the primary enforcement function in the country. But the military has also played an important role, as the ‘Declaration of Constitutional Exception’ enabled the government to deploy military personnel on the streets78. The military has intervened in policing the mobility restriction rules as well as enforcing sanitary cordons across the country.79 This has provided important relief to the police, whose services were overstretched by the social unrest that took place during the final months of 2019. To a lesser degree, inspectors from the Ministry of Health and Municipalities also collaborated in enforcement activities.

76.  The enforcement strategy in the country includes fines and prison sentences. According to the Article 174 of the Sanitary Code 1967, infringement of the Code, regulations, or resolutions could be punished with fines between 5,000 to 5 million Chilean pesos (USD $7–7,000)80. These are applied by the Ministry of Health and can be judicially reviewed by the courts. The Ministry of Health has announced extremely broad guidelines to apply fines according to the gravity of the infringement81. Undoubtedly the heavier punishment for infringement of public health rules is prison, which can be imposed in certain cases according to the Penal Code 1874. Article 318 of the Penal Code 1874 provides that whoever puts public health at risk by infringement of hygiene and health rules at times of catastrophe, epidemic, or contagion, shall be punished with prison for 2–36 months or be fined.82

77.  According to police figures, between 18 March and 21 September 2020, 281,176 individuals were detained by the police for infringements of public health regulations, while 6,335 individuals were formally prosecuted and arrested for intentionally spreading Covid-19 as they were aware of being infected.83

78.  Nevertheless, very few cases resulted in actual imprisonment of people charged with these public health crimes, given that Public Defense Services have deployed an effective defense strategy in these cases. The main target of public defenders is questioning the particularly broad language of Article 318 of the Penal Code 1874. Practitioners report that very often criminal courts dismiss cases on these grounds, although the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on these cases. Yet the Constitutional Tribunal—a specialized tribunal exclusively in charge of ruling on the constitutionality of laws—has already heard some challenges to this legal provision, as noted in Part IV.B below.

79.  In fact, echoing criticisms of public defenders, on 11 September 2020 the Constitutional Tribunal announced its decision to uphold an application to declare Article 318 of the Penal Code 1874 inapplicable for infringing the principle of legality, as it does not provide enough standards for judicial determination.84 The detailed reasoning of the Tribunal is not available yet as the actual ruling is still unpublished at time of writing. This is due to the fact that the Tribunal sometimes issues a press brief announcing the decision without publishing the actual judicial decision containing its reasoning.85

2.  Compliance

80.  Although conclusive studies have not been conducted so far, there is some evidence that compliance with health measures has been fragile at times, especially due to the extensive quarantines imposed in some regions. The data from the two more prestigious mobility reports seem to reveal important rises in commuting despite quarantines being in force.86 The violation of mobility restriction measures was especially concerning during the first six months. For instance, in Santiago, between March and July 2020, Ministry of Health inspectors fined more than 300 companies for forcing their employees to continue working in spite of their businesses not falling within the category of essential services, which were the only industries allowed to function during quarantines.87 Similarly, in late June, the National Congress passed Law No 21,240 that modified the Penal Code 1874 to punish the violation of isolation and other preventive measures taken by the authority, in case of a pandemic.88 This law introduced a new Article 318ter, which punishes ‘whoever, knowingly and having the authority to arrange the work of a subordinate, orders him to attend the place of performance of his work when it is different from his home or residence, and the worker is in quarantine or mandatory sanitary isolation decreed by the sanitary Authority’. This illustrates that, as levels of compliance were perceived as low, new legislation was needed.

Prof. Guillermo Jiménez, Faculty of Laws, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez


2  Decree 104 (18 March 2020) (Ministry of the Interior and Public Security).

4  Ministry of Foreign Relations, ‘Note 37/2020’ (27 March 2020).

5  Government of Chile, ‘Coronavirus protocols’ (updated 27 March 2020); for instance, Ministry of Public Health, ‘Protocol for cleaning and disinfection of environments- Covid-19’ (27 March 2020).

6  Sanitary Code 1967, art 36

7  Govenrment of Chile, 'Documents’ (accessed 4 January 2021).

8  Ibid.

9  These websites are www.comisariavirtual.cl and www.c19.cl (accessed 4 January 2021).

18  Bill that reforms the justice system to face the situation after the constitutional state of emergency of catastrophe due to public calamity Bulletin 13,752) (1 September 2020); see also A Zuñiga, ‘Es un proyecto de Estado, transversal, consensuado, urgente y necesario’ El Mercurio Legal (Online, 25 September 2020).

19  Supreme Court of the Republic of Chile, ‘Regulations Associated with the Health Emergency’ (2020).

20  A Chaparro, ‘Reactivación de los tribunales en modo presencial: anticipan sobrecarga y dificultades’ Revista Legal No 25 (May 2020).

21  A Chaparro and A Zuñiga, ‘Sobrecarga inesperada por retiro del 10% de las AFP tensiona a los juzgados de familia’ Revista Legal No 26 (August 2020).

23  A Chaparro, ‘Superar atrasos en agendamiento de audiencias de juicios laborales podría tardar todo 2021’ Revista Legal No 26 (August 2020).

24  L Ayala, ‘Se corta la señal, su señoría: Las quejas por los juicios virtuales’ La Tercera (13 June 2020).

25  Diario Constitucional, ‘TC declaró admisibles inaplicabilidades que impugnan norma que impide suspensión de juicio oral a efectuarse mediante videollamada producto del COVID-19’ (Online, 10 September 2020).

26  Decisión 8892 (Constitutional Tribunal of Chile) (10 December 2020).

27  L Cordero, ‘Delimitando la revisión judicial en la emergencia’ El Mercurio Legal (Online, 28 May 2020).

29  JF García and S Verdugo, ‘Introduction: Symposium on Chile’s Constitution-Making Process’ IntlJConstL Blog (Online, 31 October 2020).

32  Instructions for the Development of the National Plebiscite on 25 October 2020 (Acuerdo Dicta normas e instrucciones que indica para el desarrollo del Plebiscito Nacional del 25 de octubre de 2020) (4 September 2020).

33  Barrera Rojas v Electoral Service Claim No. 163-2020 (Electoral Court).

34  J Ojeda, L Ayala, and V Rivera, ‘Fiscalía: Covid positivos sorprendidos en locales de votación serán detenidos’ La Tercera (24 October 2020).

35  C Fuentes, ‘Participación electoral en el plebiscito. Lecciones para el proceso constituyente’ Ciper (Online, 28 October 2020).

36  Ministry of Health, ‘Covid-19 Advisory Committee’ (accessed 4 January 2021).

37  Govenrment of Chile, ‘Social Roundtable’ (accessed 4 January 2021); Ministry of Health, ‘Social Roundtable for Covid is launched and will session twice a week’ (22 March 2020).

38  College of Physicians, ‘Repository of minutes for the Social Roundtable’ (accessed 4 January 2021).

39  Council for Transparency, ‘Covid-19 Publications’ (accessed 4 January 2021).

40  Office of the Comptroller-General, ‘What we do’ (accessed 4 January 2021).

41  G Jiménez, ‘La reacción de la Contraloría General de la República frente al Covid-19: ¿Luz verde o luz roja?’ (forthcoming).

42  Office of the Comptroller General, ‘Ruling 6,785’ (24 March 2020).

43  Office of the Comptroller General, ‘Ruling 8,998’ (13 May 2020); for a detailed account of the case, see W García, ‘Alcance y límites del decreto que autoriza la colaboración de funcionarios municipales en la respuesta del Estado frente al covid-19’ El Mercurio Legal (Online, 25 May 2020).

45  Govenrment of Chile, 'Documents’ (accessed 4 January 2021).

46  F Siebert, ‘Dynamic quarantines reveal effective along with the closing down educational facilities’ University of Chile (Online, 11 May 2020); F Siebert, ‘Cuarentenas dinámicas demuestran efectividad acompañadas del cierre de las instituciones educativas’, University of Chile (Online, 11 May 2020).

47  Ministry of Health, ‘President Piñera announces Safe Return Plan’ (24 April 2020).

49  J Bartlett, ‘Chile’s health minister quits over government response to Covid-19’ The Guardian (Online, 14 June 2020).

50  Ministry of Interior and Public Security, ‘Ordinary No. 17,811’ (24 July 2020).

51  Supreme Decree 102 (17 March 2020) (Ministry of Interior and Public Security).

52  Supreme Decree 500 (12 November 2020) (Ministry of Interior and Public Security).

53  For instance, Exempted Resolution 217 (30 March 2020), ss 3–5.

54  Ibid, s 29.

55  For example, Exempted Resolution 217 (31 March 2020), s 23.

56  Exempted Resolution 591 (25 July 2020), s 43.

57  A Jara, ‘Mineduc informa que más de mil establecimientos educacionales han solicitado retomar las clases presenciales’ La Tercera (2 November 2020).

58  Exempted Resolution 200 (21 March 2020), s 4.

59  Exempted Resolution 591 (25 July 2020), ss 64ter–70.

60  Exempted Resolution 591 (25 July 2020), s 24.

61  Decree 3786 (25 May 2020).

62  Exempted Resolution 591 (25 July 2020), ss 18–22.

63  Exempted Resolution 203 (25 March 2020), ss 9–13.

64  Ibid, s 13.

65  Exempted Resolution 591 (25 July 2020), ss 9–13.

66  Exempted Resolution 591 (25 July 2020), s 8; this price was set for the first time by Exempted Resolution 209 (26 March 2020), s 2.

67  Exempted Resolution 591 (25 July 2020), s 48.

68  R Latorre, ‘PCR sin orden médica: Salud autoriza examen a solicitud del paciente’ La Tercera (Online, 15 December 2020).

69  Ordinary No 3,800, by the Undersecretary of Health Networks (10 December 2020).

70  Ordinary No 3,875, by the Undersecretary of Health Networks (17 December 2020).

71  Exempted Decree 6 (19 April 2010) (Ministry of Health).

72  For instance, Decisión 7074 (Supreme Ct of Chile) (15 November 2012); Decisión 36759 (Supreme Ct of Chile) (3 March 2016).

75  P Lazcano, ‘Gobierno retrocede y posterga entrega de carnet Covid’ La Tercera (Online, 10 May 2020).

76  Exempted Resolution 180 (17 March 2020), s 5.

77  Ibid, ss 14–15

78  Decree 104 (18 March 2020) (Ministry of the Interior and Public Security).

79  M Bakit and P Cifuentes, ‘La guerra contra el Covid de las FF.AA.’ El Mercurio (5 July 2020).

80  Sanitary Code 1967, art 174.

83  V Rivera, ‘Más de 6 mil personas han sido detenidas por “propagar contagio a sabiendas”’ La Tercera (27 September 2020).

84  No. 8950-20 (Constitutional Tribunal of Chile).

85  Constitutional Tribunal of Chile, ‘Partially welcomes the requirement of inapplicability due to unconstitutionality regarding Article 318 of the Penal Code’ (Press brief, 10 September 2020)

86  See the following two periodic reports Institute of Engineering Complex Systems of the University of Chile, ‘The effect of the first days of transition in the Metropolitan Region’ (7 August 2020); and Data Science Institute of the University of Development, ‘Mobility in Chile’ (2 December 2020).