First Latin American Coronavirus Case Triggers Panic over Venezuela

Passengers wearing masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 use their phones at the Sao Paulo International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
AP Photo/Andre Penner

The first confirmed case of Chinese coronavirus in Latin America is triggering concern across socialist Venezuela, whose healthcare system is dismally ill-prepared to handle the challenge of a mass health epidemic.

On Thursday, health authorities in Brazil confirmed their first case of Wuhan coronavirus in a 61-year-old man who recently visited Italy for nearly two weeks.

In response to the news, the Venezuelan regime’s Minister of Health Carlos Alvarado released a statement claiming that health officials have been carrying epidemiological surveillance in ports and airports for over five weeks to contain a potential outbreak.

Alvarado alleged that foreigners entering Venezuelan territory had been fully vetted, including “93 passengers from China who entered the national territory, whose results did not show virus symptoms.” He also emphasized the importance of keeping public spaces clean and with adequate ventilation, not sharing utensils, and immediately seeking assistance should someone experience breathing difficulties.

The risk of an outbreak in Venezuela is particularly frightening for the millions of people living in dire poverty, the majority of whom have little to no access to basic healthcare services as a result of the economic and humanitarian crisis caused by Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime.

Venezuela also has a strong alliance with China, with Beijing playing a key role in providing the financial and military support to help keep the Maduro regime in power in the face of widespread demands for its removal.

Chinese citizens regularly travel to Venezuela as a result of these ties, leaving the country even more vulnerable to contagion. This situation also compounds the threat facing the rest of Latin America, as thousands of Venezuelans continue to flee the country each day in search of political and economic refuge.

The socialist regime’s dependency on Beijing has left them powerless to take a hardline stance. Maduro’s Minister of Culture Ernesto Villegas denounced supposed “commercial, political, and psychological warfare” against China and people with “slanted eyes.”

“China today has an important role to play in the world, and will continue to do so,” he declared. “It is, therefore, absurd to engage in a childish way in a campaign against China, against Chinese culture, and against men and women with slanted eyes. ”

Over the weekend, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that the time to stop the spread of the coronavirus is running out.

“We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it,” he said. “This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now.”

The coronavirus, which first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in central Hubei province, has so far infected around 82,500 people, the majority of whom are located in China. The country has consequently been brought to a standstill, with people being forced to stay home and avoid all unnecessary physical contact.

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at bkew@breitbart.com.

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