Venezuela Sees COVID-19 Outbreak at State Television Network

Caracas’ regional government chief, Dario Vivas, has tested positive, while National Assembly President Luis Parra has been hospitalised with pneumonia-like symptoms.

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The Venezolana de Television headquarters in Los Ruices in eastern Caracas is at the centre of a recent COVID-19 outbreak. (@VTVcanal8 / Twitter)
The Venezolana de Television headquarters in Los Ruices in eastern Caracas is at the centre of a recent COVID-19 outbreak. (@VTVcanal8 / Twitter)
By Paul Dobson
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Mérida, July 20, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – At least 45 workers at state-run television channel Venezolana de Television (VTV) have contracted COVID-19, including its president, Freddy Nanez.

The latest hotspot comes as the country’s active cases rose by 408 on Sunday, of which 391 were reported to be the result of community transmission, with241 in Caracas alone. Two men from Caracas and Maracaibo were reported dead, bringing the national total to 112 deaths and 11,891 cases.

Venezuela’s capital has seen a spike in recent infections, forcing authorities to cancel plans to ease the lockdown last Wednesday and set up a field hospital in the Poliedro sports and entertainment arena.

Nationally, the government continues to ease the quarantine on a week-on-week-off basis, except for hotspot sectors which are exempt from the policy. Despite the easing, schools remain closed, facemasks mandatory, and inter-state travel restricted.

Following the VTV outbreak in the Los Ruices district of eastern Caracas, healthcare staff carried out an “epidemiological sweep” of all station personnel, placing them in isolation.

The incident coincided with new infections among a number of senior Venezuelan politicians.

Caracas’ local government chief and leading member of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), Dario Vivas, confirmed Sunday that he had caught the virus. The 70-year-old is self-isolating and has urged the residents of the capital to “follow the president’s calls” and adhere to the lockdown.

National Assembly President Luis Parra was likewise admitted to hospital in his native Yaracuy State, showing symptoms of pneumonia. According to fellow opposition legislator Jose Britto, Parra (42) was negative for COVID-19 after a quick test, but awaits the results of the more comprehensive PCR test. He was moved to Caracas on Monday, where he is reportedly in a “stable” condition.

Last week, Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami (45) and National Constituent Assembly (ANC) President and PSUV Vice-President Diosdado Cabello (57) confirmed that they had contracted the virus and were self-isolating. Over the weekend, both men took to social media with upbeat messages, with El Aissami reporting “another day of progress and frank improvement” and Cabello tweeting that he was “improving.”

Additionally infected were the PSUV governors of Zulia and Sucre states, Omar Prieto and Edwin Rojas, who both announced steady improvement over the weekend. Sucre and Zulia are amongst the hardest hit in Venezuela’s fight against the coronavirus.

Other PSUV leaders to have contracted the virus include ANC Deputies Juan Carlos Aleman, Gerardo Marquez and Fidel Madronero as well as several local mayors, including Luis Ladino (Lara State), Jonny Acosta (Sucre State) and Amado Torres (Yaracuy State).

Opposition legislators Jose Antonio Espana and Hernan Aleman also tested positive for COVID-19, with the latter having died in Bogota, Colombia on July 7.

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Caracas’ Poliedro arena, which can hold over 23,000 people for sporting or musical events, is to be converted into a COVID-19 field hospital. (@PoliedroCaracas / Twitter)
Caracas’ Poliedro arena, which can hold over 23,000 people for sporting or musical events, is to be converted into a COVID-19 field hospital. (@PoliedroCaracas / Twitter)

Hard hit by years of deep economic depression and crushing US sanctions, Venezuela’s healthcare system has been under increasing strain from the pandemic, especially in border regions which have collapsed under the influx of over 70,000 migrants returning across the Colombian and Brazilian borders. Both Colombia and Brazil have recorded large outbreaks with 197,278 and 2,102,559 cases, respectively.

To help deal with the pandemic, Venezuela has received over 1,000 tonnes of medical supplies, both as donations and as part of trade deals, from Cuba, China, Russia, and Iran, as well as from the United Nations and the World Health Organization. An inaugural shipment of over 25 tonnes of aid also arrived from Turkey on Friday, including 25 ventilators, 40,000 PCR tests, 10,000 facemasks, and 35,000 protective suits.

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Philadelphia.