SANTIAGO – President Sebastián Piñera, in a surprise cabinet change, replaced Health Minister Jaime Mañalich on Saturday amid controversy over the country’s figures for deaths from the coronavirus outbreak.
Mañalich’s departure marks the third change of cabinet during the current month of June, after the modifications made earlier this month in Social Development, the General Secretariat of the Presidency and the Ministry of Housing, plus the departure of Macarena Santelices from the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity.
On Saturday, a Chilean investigative website, Ciper, reported that the health ministry had told the World Health Organisation that as many as 5,000 deaths in the country were linked to coronavirus.
The health ministry’s statistics department reported figures to the global body of people who had died after testing positive for coronavirus test but also deaths suspected to be linked to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Piñera said Mañalich had spared “no effort” in carrying out his “difficult and noble duty” to protect Chileans’ health. He replaced him with Oscar Enrique Paris, an academic and medical doctor, who has assumed the office.
— Prensa Presidencia de Chile (@presidencia_cl) June 13, 2020
The new minister is a paediatrician graduated from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a specialist in toxicology, having also been dean of the Faculty of Sciences at the Universidad Mayor.
In addition, among his achievements throughout his career, Enrique Paris is the founder of the Toxicological Information Center of the Catholic University (CITUC).
On the other hand, he also worked as a paediatrician at the Catholic University and was head of the ICU at the Sótero del Río Hospital, among other positions.
The sudden reshuffle comes as Chile faces its toughest month in the pandemic so far, with spiraling active cases and deaths rates.
The country now has the highest number of confirmed cases per million people in Latin America, reporting 167,355 cases on Saturday and 3,101 deaths.