Chilean officials acted after seeing daily cases grow by 25 per cent with 7,716 new daily cases reported on Thursday.
About 75 per cent of its 15 million residents have received one dose of vaccine and nearly 58 per cent are completely inoculated–making it the fifth highest rate worldwide on a per capita basis.
It comes as UK ministers consider a two to four-week delay to the proposed June 21 full reopening in England to give businesses and people certainty, according to reports.
Intensive care beds in Santiago are now dangerously close to capacity.
Jose Luis Espinoza, the president of Chile’s National Federation of Nursing Associations, said his members were “on the verge of collapse.”
Chile has reported 30,339 Covid deaths so far, with more than half coming in the densely populated capital.
Dr Cesar Cortes, emergency physician at the University of Chile hospital, said people who stayed home last year were now more afraid of being without work.
“Last year, there was low circulation and the confinement measures were more effective because people were scared of dying,” he said. “That’s not happening now.”
“[Without vaccines] the complicated situation we are seeing now would be catastrophic,” he said.
Chile is now embarking on vaccinating teenagers, having offered jabs to older age groups.
Two weeks ago it introduced “green cards” to confer greater freedom on the vaccinated in an attempt to encourage the hesitant to come forward.