Speaking on television on Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said the outbreaks were located in the capital, the neighbouring state of Miranda and in the southern state of Bolivar.
“It is more contagious, transmits more viral load and is more dangerous, more serious,” he stated.
Maduro made the announcement less than 48 hours after a donation of 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and protective equipment for medical personnel arrived from Beijing Monday evening.
Authorities say the donated vaccines will be earmarked for key workers in healthcare, education and security services through the government's vaccination programme, which got underway last month.
Areas affected by the new Brazil Covid-19 variant will also now be prioritised for immunisation in an effort to “break the transmission chain,” Maduro explained.
So far the government has spent US $200 million on 10 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. An initial 100,000 vaccines arrived in the country on February 13 to be administered to priority sectors, with a mass vaccination campaign scheduled to begin in April. A second 100,000 shipment arrived on Saturday, hours after President Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores got their first Sputnik V dose.
China and Russia are both close Venezuelan allies, however extensive US economic sanctions which have targeted the country’s oil industry and frozen its assets abroad have hampered its ability to purchase medical supplies from other sources.
Speaking at a United Nations General Assembly extraordinary session in December, Maduro said it was urgent that sanctions were lifted given the gravity of the worldwide pandemic.
“This (the sanctions) prevent us from accessing accounts to pay for medicines needed by the people, the primary sources of medicines, to equipment, medical supplies, and the purchase of fuel”.
A report released by UN special rapporteur Alena Douhan on February 12 likewise found that the refusal of banks in the US, UK and Portugal to release Venezuelan funds and assets had impeded “the ability of Venezuela to respond to the COVID-19 emergency”.
Progressive Democrats have also lobbied the Biden administration to review US sanctions on countries such as Iran and Venezuela, which they say are having a “catastrophic” effect on the worldwide struggle against Covid-19.
To date Venezuela has registered 141,000 Covid cases and 1371 deaths from the virus.
The government has credited its low number of fatalities to its early-onset lockdown, as well to its “7x7” system in which a week of strict lockdown is followed by seven days of more relaxed measures.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.