Venezuela reports its first two cases of COVID-19, suspends classes

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Venezuela on Friday confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus and said it will suspend all classes starting Monday, as the fast-spreading virus has reached almost every country in the Americas.

In a press conference, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said that a man and woman from Miranda state, part of greater Caracas, had tested positive after recently traveling to the United States, Italy and Spain.

She also asked everyone who arrived with them on Iberia flights 6673 on March 5 and March 8 to quarantine themselves.

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“These two [people] have been completely isolated and we’ve established who they have been in direct contact with,” Rodríguez said. “We are also determining their chain of indirect contacts.”

Neighboring Colombia has 13 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and it was thought to be just a matter of time before it was detected in Venezuela. But its arrival opens up a dangerous new front for the country.

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Staggering under a recession, inflation and shortages of many basic supplies, Venezuela has one of the weakest and most dysfunctional healthcare systems in the hemisphere, according to the Global Health Security Index.

Among steps being taken to slow its spread, the government said it’s canceling school starting March 16 and that all passengers on the Caracas subway system must wear surgical masks.

Local media have reported other suspected cases, including at schools, but this is the first time the government has acknowledged the presence of COVID-19 in the South American nation.

On Thursday, Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro declared a state of emergency and suspended flights from Colombia and Europe.