Mérida, March 27, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The Venezuelan government announced the first two coronavirus deaths.
Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez announced that a 78-year-old woman died on Friday. He added that the COVID-19 infection was detected post-mortem, and that the victim had a number of chronic health problems.
On Thursday, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez reported the death of a 47-year-old man in Aragua State.
Rodriguez revealed that the patient was infected by a community member who had arrived from Panama and that he had a history of respiratory issues.
President Maduro later added that the patient was being treated for pneumonia at a private clinic and that doctors had not suspected it could be coronavirus.
“That’s a mistake at this time,” Maduro said. “I urge everyone who develops symptoms to fill out the online Homeland Card survey,” he added.
Venezuelan authorities have asked citizens to fill out a survey reporting possible coronavirus symptoms online. Over 14 million are reported to have responded, with around 34 thousand requiring a visit from a medical team. Over 27 thousand door-to-door medical visits have been carried out so far.
According to the government, Venezuela has 113 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Friday evening.
Last week, President Maduro ordered a nationwide quarantine in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. With the exception of food stores, pharmacies, and some public institutions, most businesses and government offices remain closed, while citizens are encouraged to stay home.
The national government has pledged to pay the salaries of employees of small and midsize companies, among other measures aimed at alleviating the economic impact of the pandemic.
The Maduro administration has, however, been hamstrung in its response by collapsing global oil prices as well as US economic sanctions.
Since 2017, the Trump administration has imposed hard-hitting unilateral measures targeting Venezuelan oil exports, freezing Caracas’ assets abroad, as well as blocking international credit lines and financial transactions needed to import vital food and medical supplies.
On March 17, Venezuela sent an emergency loan appeal to the International Monetary Fund, which the institution promptly rejected.
In recent days, a number of international organs such as the United Nations and the European Union have called for sanctions relief.
With additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Santiago de Chile.