Venezuela tightens anti-virus measures in capital after surge

Venezuela has seen a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, prompting the government to tighten containment measures (AFP Photo/Federico Parra) (AFP/File)
·2 min read

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced a tightening of coronavirus containment measures in the capital Caracas and neighboring Miranda state to try to halt the spread of the deadly disease.

The country was one of the least affected in Latin America in the early stages of the pandemic but has seen an alarming rise in cases and deaths in recent weeks.

It took 70 days for Venezuela to record its first 1,000 COVID-19 cases -- but just three days to go from 7,000 to 8,000 cases.

This week Venezuela surpassed 10,000 officially confirmed infections, although the opposition and organizations such as Human Rights Watch believe the true numbers are much greater.

"Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, because of the illegal entry of people into the country... I've taken the decision to apply a radical quarantine in Caracas and Miranda state," Maduro said Wednesday on Twitter.

The move comes just four days after the government announced a loosening of restrictions in Caracas and other states, allowing banks and other economic activity to reopen.

"We need to give the economy a break," Maduro had said on Saturday.

The day before that, though, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez had announced that the "state of alarm" providing a legal basis for the quarantine measures would be extended by a month.

Last week, three top government officials revealed they had contracted the coronavirus, including Constitutional Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami.

Maduro also announced Wednesday that he would authorize the transformation of the Poliedro de Caracas -- the country's largest entertainment center -- into a COVID-19 field hospital.

He did not give further details or a timeframe.

With a capacity of 20,000 people, the Poliedro has in the past hosted concerts by superstars including Queen and Metallica, and big sporting events such as the Pan-American Games.

However, since the country has been in the throes of a severe economic and political crisis, the facilities have only hosted official political events.