Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro imposed a nationwide quarantine on Monday after many Venezuelans ignored his announcement of a “social quarantine” as protection against the Chinese coronavirus and went to work.
Speaking on state television Monday evening, Maduro confirmed that health authorities had detected 16 new cases since the weekend, bringing the official total to 33 and zero fatalities. He added that the country would begin a nationwide quarantine, describing it as “an unavoidable and necessary measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus]”.
“The real crisis is just starting. We are trying to get ahead of it,” Maduro declared. “If we don’t get a hold of it and stop it, it could severely damage our community.”
The measures risk wreaking further damage to Venezuela’s shattered socialist economy, the driving factor behind the country’s humanitarian crisis. As reported by Reuters, many people actively ignored Maduro’s “social quarantine” over the weekend, instead choosing to go to work to avoid losing out on their already pitiful salaries.
“If we don’t work, we don’t eat,” Jose Luis Nieves, a 32-year-old searching piles of garbage for scrap to sell, told the agency. “Otherwise my kids are going to die of hunger. We have to head out like always.”
The Maduro regime has also urged all citizens to wear face masks and regularly wash their hands. Yet for many Venezuelans with no money or access to clean water, such precautions are an impossibility.
Maduro has not been the legitimate head of the Venezuelan state since January 2019, meaning he has no official power to impose a quarantine. The president of Venezuela is the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó. Maduro maintains control of the Venezuelan military, however, and thus the use of force, and has made it impossible for Guaidó to exercise his powers.
Guaidó announced on Monday that his team had obtained 3,500 protection kits for caregivers that would be distributed in five hospitals across the country.
“If their daily work is already difficult because of a lack of water, electricity and basic items, with coronavirus the risk is exponential,” Guaidó said in a video posted to Twitter on Monday night. “The truth is that the Venezuelan state does not have the capacity to respond to this pandemic.”
There are major concerns about how the country’s “universal health care system” will cope under the strain of mass infections. Venezuelan hospitals have for years suffered chronic shortages of medical resources such as antibiotics and basic sanitary products required to deal with health epidemic. In 2017, leading national newspaper El Nacional declared the country was in the midst of a “Health Holocaust.”
The socialist regime usually responds to the country’s array of crises by pretending they do not exist or blaming their predicament on the United States. However, Maduro appears to be one of those most concerned in his regime by the outbreak, warning this weekend that people either go into quarantine o face a “pandemic could brutally and tragically bring down our country.”
One of Maduro’s strategies for countering the pandemic is the importation of more Cuban doctors, many of whom are already stationed in Venezuela as slave laborers for their country’s communist regime. On Sunday, a team of specialists landed in Caracas to join the thousands already out there.
Maduro also falsely claimed that Cuban experts were on the brink of finding a cure for the virus.