Chile surpasses 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases

FILE PHOTO: Workers in protective suits clean the floor at one of the first public hight school to resume in-person classes, where no students arrived according to local media, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at Pirque area, Santiago, Chile October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile has identified more than 500,000 cases of the new coronavirus since the outbreak began in March, the health ministry said on Saturday.

The ministry said 500,542 Chileans were now confirmed to have suffered from the virus, including 1,631 cases added in the past day and 48 deaths, taking fatalities to a total of 13,892. Active cases are at a record low of 9,900, it added.

Chile, which was among the worst-hit nations by COVID-19 in July, ranking only behind Qatar globally for cases per head of the population, has in the past two months gradually eased lockdowns.

Restaurants and bars have opened with limited capacity, office workers are returning and some schools have reopened.

On Sunday, millions of Chileans are expected to decide in a historic referendum whether to replace the country's Pinochet-era constitution.

The charter, drawn up by a key lieutenant of military leader Augusto Pinochet in 1980, is blamed for segmenting pension, health and education provisions and entrenching inequality.

(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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