Fifteen people in a small Chilean town have contracted coronavirus after attending a birthday party thrown for a cat.
Dumbfounded Chilean authorities confirmed the outbreak in Santo Domingo, an exclusive coastal community home to fewer than 10,000 people in the central region of Valparaíso, in a public statement on Saturday.
Francisco Álvarez, the Ministry of Health’s regional secretary for Valparaíso, said that he originally did not believe the cause of the outbreak.
‘When I heard it was a cat’s birthday party I thought it was a joke, that they were probably trying to hide something,’ Álvarez told Radio Bio-Bio on Saturday.
‘We have corroborated it with at least six of the 15 [infected] people who told us the same thing’.
It is unclear when exactly the party took place but local media reported that 10 people attended, all of whom became infected.
The remaining five infected people connected with the outbreak are said to be family and friends of the cat’s owner.
The cat did not contract the potentially fatal disease, Álvarez said.
He added that he struggled to believe that people were continuing to hold gatherings despite stern warnings from authorities.
‘It’s complicated and it’s a little incomprehensible, especially considering that what we have said in every way and emphasized is that if people are going to meet, they need to take safety measures’.
Covid-19 infections are rising in Chile even as the death rate remains relatively steady.
Wednesday saw 3,589 new cases reported in the Andean country where at least 681,000 people have contracted the virus and 17,594 have died from it since the pandemic began.
Clandestine gatherings have been held in Chile and elsewhere during the pandemic but do not usually center around cats.
In an interview with La Segunda newspaper, Álvares confessed to having uncovered some bizarre and awkward scenarios while conducting contract tracing of infected individuals.
They included finding a three-year-old child with a work permit, a family that had secretly snuck into the region in a van, and numerous extra-marital affairs, Meganoticias reported.
Álvares himself had previously been ‘at death’s door’ after contracting the virus.