Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro claimed on Tuesday that there has been a miracle halt on new Chinese coronavirus cases in his crisis-stricken country, with the number of infected remaining at 329 for at least 24 hours.
“We have flattened the cases during the first days of April, then we had three peaks, including one day of zero,” he declared in a speech on state television. “The peaks are the result of the irresponsibility of the Governor of Nueva Esparta.”
Maduro also reported that 142 patients had made a full recovery, 89 remain in hospital, 64 in intensive care units, 24 in private clinics, and ten fatalities. As is the case in many authoritarian countries, it is almost impossible to verify the reliability of the figures due to the Maduro regime’s tendency to put out false information.
Following the outbreak of the virus in Latin America last month, health officials raised serious concerns about the impact of such a pandemic on a country such as Venezuela, which is in the midst of one of the world’s worst economic and humanitarian crises.
The reportedly low number of cases in Venezuela is therefore somewhat surprising given the vulnerability of Venezuela’s population, vast swathes of whom have little to no access to food, medicine, or sanitary products. Another issue is the decrepit nature of the country’s “universal” healthcare system, where hospitals suffer chronic lack of supplies and functioning medical equipment. In 2017, the country’s leading national newspaper El Nacional described the situation in Venezuelan hospitals as a “health Holocaust.”
A possible cause for the allegedly low numbers could be Maduro’s decision in March to order a nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the virus, admitting it could “brutally and tragically bring down our country.” This month, Maduro also ordered the hospitalization of anyone who tests positive for the Chinese coronavirus, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms.
Another explanation for the low number of cases, which are a fraction of the number recorded in countries such as Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador, could be the product of the country’s limited resources for testing.
After initially ignoring the order, the majority of Venezuelans are now obeying the quarantine, with 90 percent of people considering the virus to be a greater threat than running out of food. However, the measures are only now serving to further decimate the country’s already shattered economy, while also leading to a breakdown in essential services such as water supply and access to gasoline.