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The Venezuelan government announced a series of measures to support the population as the country contends with record-high cases of COVID-19.
Among the measures announced by President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday were a ban on evictions, a special “stay at home” benefit for two million private-sector workers, and a one-time benefit for 15 million people, including four million self-employed workers. An already existing workplace stability decree was extended until the end of 2022.
The measures are aimed at keeping people at home and contain the spread of the disease as Venezuela grapples with a “second wave” of infections, driven by more contagious variants that are present in the country. The rapid rise in cases saw authorities implement a strict three-week quarantine before the country eventually returns to the “7×7” system in which a week of strict lockdown is followed by seven days of more relaxed measures.
Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez, who has been tasked with managing the government’s response to the pandemic, reported Tuesday night that the country had registered 1,526 new cases, bringing the total number of positive cases since the outbreak to 169,074 cases, with 91 percent recovering from the infection. The Caribbean country has seen a record number of new cases and deaths, which now total 91 since the start of April.
Meanwhile the country’s health sector is taking measures to treat those infected. Workers from state-oil firm PDVSA and metalworks SIDOR jointly sent 10,280 kilograms of liquified oxygen to the capital, which presently has the highest number of cases.
President Maduro praised the work of the World Health Organization on the occasion of World Health Day via a message on his Twitter account.
“I congratulate those who, with a lot of work and commitment, have led the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. From Venezuela, we appreciate the willingness to guarantee, through COVAX, access to the vaccine for all countries,” he wrote.
Venezuela’s vaccination rate is behind other countries in the region as US-led sanctions have cut off access to international trade, credit lines and payment channels, as well as freezing billions of dollars of foreign-based assets, which limit the country’s ability to procure doses.
Echoing calls by the presidents of Mexico and Argentina to improve poorer nations’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, the Venezuelan president condemned the hoarding of vaccines by wealthy countries during a televised address to the country on Sunday.
For their part, Venezuelan healthcare students protested in front of Caracas’ University Hospital on Tuesday demanding greater action from state authorities on vaccinations, criticizing the lack of immunization for the country’s health sector.
The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and UNICEF brokered an agreement between the government and the Washington-backed opposition sector led by self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó to liberate US $30.3 million in Venezuelan funds frozen by the US government in order to acquire vaccines through the COVAX program. Maduro has additionally proposed swapping vaccines for oil.
Venezuela has thus far largely relied on China and Russia in order to obtain the doses the country requires to inoculate its population. The Caribbean nation has signed deals to acquire 10 million doses of Sputnik V and has received approximately 250,000 of the Russian-made vaccine, alongside a further 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine donated by China.
Caracas has signed a deal to take part in trials of Russia’s EpiVacCorona vaccine, which was found to be safe and effective in clinical trials whose results were published in the Infection and Immunity journal. Venezuela is also taking part in clinical trials of Cuba’s Abdala and Soberana 02 vaccines with the aim of including them in its vaccination plan once they receive approval from regulatory authorities.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.