SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chileans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to move more freely within the country, the government said on Monday, although the nation's borders will remain closed through mid-June to tamp down a fresh spike in infections.
People in Chile who have completed their vaccination cycle will be able to move between communities that are both in and out of quarantine for some activities, as well as travel more freely inside the country starting on Wednesday, the government said.
All other sanitary measures, including mask wearing and social distancing, will remain in place for the group.
Travel within the South American nation has been greatly restricted amid a sharp spike in infections that kicked off following the Southern Hemisphere summer vacation months, leading to widespread lockdowns throughout the country.
Chile has inoculated more than 50% of its population, or 7.7 million people, with two doses of vaccine, a tally that places it among the world leaders in vaccination against COVID-19.
The country has confirmed more than 1.3 million cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 28,548 deaths from the highly contagious respiratory disease.
The new freedoms for the growing group of vaccinated citizens will not include foreign travel, health officials said, adding they would extend the closure of the country's borders through June 15.
Government spokesman Jaime Bellolio said the decision to allow more movement within Chile should not be considered "open season" for disregarding sanitary protocols, but rather, exemptions from some restrictions for those who "represent a lower risk for others and for themselves."
Bellolio said a new "mobility pass" would utilize a QR code, a matrix barcode often accessed by cellphone, which would allow the government to immediately change people's status should they become infected.
Holders of the pass will not be allowed to travel during night-time curfew, in place since the pandemic hit in March 2020, and must respect strict limits on social and work gatherings.
Officials in Chile said they were in discussions with counterparts across the globe over a similar type of pass for international travel but had yet to settle on a model.
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Fabian Cambero; Editing by Peter Cooney)