• 13,613 COVID-19 cases have been reported, along with 129 deaths. Experts are concerned that this may be an underestimate, due to limited testing and reporting.
• There is a high risk that the country’s health system will be overwhelmed by even a moderate increase in COVID-19 cases.
• More than 7 million people need humanitarian assistance.
• The most urgent needs include staffing; medical supplies and equipment for health facilities; water, sanitation and hygiene services and supplies; and mental health and psychosocial support services.
Coronavirus cases in Venezuela continue to increase. According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, as of July 24 there are more than 13,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. Experts are concerned that this is an underestimate, due to limited testing and reporting.
Venezuela’s case count began to accelerate last month and is rising by more than 30% each week, according to Dr. Julio Castro, part of the medical advisory team for the country’s national assembly. The government has attributed the increased infection rate to the return of Venezuelan migrants from neighboring countries. So far, more than 70,000 migrants have returned to the country since the start of the pandemic.
The number of confirmed cases in the countries surrounding Venezuela are very high: Brazil has more than 2.28 million, Peru has about 376,000, Colombia has more than 226,000 and Ecuador has more than 79,000. Rather than keep Venezuelans from returning to their country, the Venezuelan government—along with a variety of social missions and community organizers—has established epidemiological checkpoints along the border to test and treat migrants. Returning Venezuelans who test positive are sent to health centers to be treated and to live in quarantine for two weeks. As the number of cases continues to climb, border states—Zulia, Apure, Tachira and Bolivar—have emerged as hotspots for the virus, with nearly 40% of the country’s cases reported in these areas.
Venezuela is ranked among the least prepared countries to respond to a pandemic, according to the 2019 Global Health Security Index. The country’s severe economic crisis has crippled the healthcare system, with many facilities lacking the basic supplies needed to prevent and treat illnesses. In April 2020, it was reported that approximately two-thirds of the biggest hospitals in Venezuela do not have running water1 but instead were relying on water distributions a few times a week. Additionally, facilities are suffering from constant blackouts, making it difficult to treat and care for patients. The economic crisis has also led to severe shortages of PPE, intensive-care beds, medicines and personnel. Many thousands of doctors and nurses are among the estimated 5 million Venezuelans who have migrated abroad in recent years.
Venezuela has roughly 300 public hospitals, with 23,000 beds ready to receive patients, according to official figures.
Since the first coronavirus case was reported in early March, much of Venezuela has been under lockdown. However, in response to the increasing case numbers, the government implemented stricter lockdown measures in hotspots. Under the strict lockdown orders, all businesses are barred from operating, except food and drug stores—which will have limited hours—and vital services, including healthcare and public transport. Curfews will remain in place as well, especially for the border states. States that have fewer case numbers will continue with a weekon/week-off quarantine, in an effort to revive some economic activity where possible. Schools and publicsector industries remain closed and all sporting events and flights are suspended.