By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s healthcare system is under strain and “very close to the limit,” President Sebastian Pinera said on Sunday, as the number of confirmed novel coronavirus infections approaches 70,000 after a rapid increase in recent days.

The Ministry of Health reported 3,709 new cases in the last day, bringing the total to 69,102. The death toll is at 718.

“We are very close to the limit because we have had a very large increase in the needs and demands for medical care, and for intensive care unit beds and ventilators,” Pinera said during a visit to a hospital in Santiago, which has the highest concentration of cases.

More than 1,000 people have been hospitalized for disease associated with the coronavirus, according to the government.

Chile, the world’s top copper producer, confirmed its first case of coronavirus in early March and surpassed 50,000 infections this week.

A third of Chile’s population of about 19 million is under mandatory quarantine after the government put Santiago and several other cities under lockdown.

(Reporting by Natalia Ramos, writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Grant McCool)

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