Chile has reopened 22 land border crossings with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru in a symbolic move that marks a new stage in the coronavirus pandemic.
The border checkpoints had been closed since March 17, 2020, when preventative measures were imposed to deal with the arrival of Covid-19 in Chile. Only commercial cargo was allowed to enter the country, with the movement of people unauthorised.
The decision to reopen them, which came into force on Sunday, was confirmed by the Interior Ministry and justified by the stablisation of coronavirus cases in Chile.
"This Sunday, May 1, traffic at the border will be normalised. Before traveling to Chile, find out about the '#PlanFronteraProtegidas,' which lays out both health and immigration requirements," said a message on the official Twitter account of the Border Crossing Unit of the Interior Ministry.
In preparation for the reopening, the Chilean government implemented a new system with three levels of alert, with restrictions tightened according to the state of play.
The borders are currently set at Level 1 or "low health impact," so there will be no restriction on travel into or out of the country. A PCR test prior to entering the country is only recommended, though arrivals may be chosen to be tested at random. Those who enter must fill out a health form prior to entery and non-resident foreigners will also be required to have health insurance in place that covers a possible Covid-19 diagnosis.
If a new variant of the virus appears, the authorities will raise the alert system to Level 2 and preventative measures will be increased. Under Level 3, which is the maximum, all restrictions will be re-imposed.
Since December 22, five border crossings with Argentina have been open. Last November, the Santiago airport was opened, followed by terminals in the cities of Antofagasta and Iquique (north) and Punta Arenas (south).
To date, Chile has had 3,561,016 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 57,539 deaths since the arrival of coronavirus in the country on March 8, 2020.