Overview and response to date
Note: Since the first iteration of this Plan, there has been an increase in the number of people returning to Venezuela, mainly crossing by land from Colombia. This situation requires specific response from the point of view of epidemiological control and establishing adequate temporary accommodation and protection conditions, as reflected in this second edition.
On 13 March, two cases of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) were confirmed in Venezuela. On the same day, the Government decreed a State of Emergency1 permitting it to take extraordinary measures to manage the situation. As of 10 April, 175 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by the authorities in Caracas and in 21 states in the country, and nine deaths have been reported.
On 17 March, the Government of Venezuela requested the support of the United Nations (UN) in Venezuela to fight the spread of COVID-19 at the national level and to address the possible social and economic consequences of the measures implemented to control the outbreak.
To date, efforts to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak include:
PAHO/WHO’s support, in collaboration with the Ministry of the People's Power for Health (MPPS), in developing the National Coronavirus Prevention and Control Plan. The Plan, in line with the World Health Organization's global guidelines, has five components: a) strengthen the epidemiological surveillance and laboratory services; b) sanitary control at points of entry; c) implementation of the sanitary protocol for clinical-epidemiological management of suspected and confirmed cases; d) communication and community engagement; and e) identification and strengthening of the sentinel sites (centros centinelas).
The Government preventive measures to control the spread of COVID-19 include:
Preventive social quarantine across the national territory as of 17 March2, with closure of borders between the states, except for the food distribution supply chain, health and sanitary services, police and military security, transportation, electricity, gas, fuel, solid waste management and telecommunications.
Suspension of all work activities except for social service activities and those of immediate need (food distribution, health, safety and transport services).
Suspension of educational activities at all levels since 16 March. Suspension of commercial and private flights from Europe, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Panama from 15 March for 30 days, and domestic flights excluding cargo and postal flights.
Mandatory use of face masks on public transportation such as the metro and railways and from 22 March, in all public areas.
Establishment of 46 hospitals and sentinel centres in all states and collaboration with Member States such as China, Russia and Cuba, for the provision of supplies and medicines, technical cooperation and human resources support. As of 1 April, a total of 23,000 hospital beds and 1,200 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds have been prepared to receive COVID-19 cases, and 52,000 PCR tests and one million rapid tests have been made available.3
The launch of a COVID-19 screening survey through the Patria System to strengthen the epidemiological surveillance of COVID-19. As of 6 April, 17,202,618 people had reportedly responded to the survey, enabling the prioritization of the deployment of 14,000 workers to conduct screenings of 98,269 people (as of 31 March, 54,248 screenings had been conducted). This tool seeks to track the evolution of the outbreak in the country, in order to adapt the response.
A communication campaign to provide key information to the population on preventive measures, evolution of the virus and actions required to prevent the spread of COVID19.
As part of the initial response, PAHO/WHO delivered 2,000 diagnostic kits, 150,000 masks, 200 personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, and seven hygiene kits to the four sentinel centres in Caracas. PAHO/WHO is also providing technical cooperation to the authorities on a regular basis on epidemiological surveillance, infection control, laboratory screening, and case management. On 8 April, UNICEF has facilitated the arrival of 90 tons of supplies, including PPE kits and other essential medical and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies.
PAHO/WHO and UNICEF have also jointly focused on supporting water supply and sanitation and hygiene measures in hospitals, health centres, airports and other establishments and institutions.
Efforts by the humanitarian community also include risk communication for the prevention of COVID-19, with the development of standard contents and dissemination planning.
The humanitarian community is working to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on pre-existing humanitarian needs and to maintain critical activities finding new approaches, in line with global Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) guidelines.