Maduro extends lockdown measures in Venezuela

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced Tuesday he was extending his country's lockdown measures against the coronavirus for a further 30 days.

"I will renew the 30-day state-of-alert decree in order to continue to protect our people," the Socialist president said in one of his near-daily televised addresses to the nation.

Maduro imposed the nationwide lockdown on March 13 and has previously extended it in mid-April.

He said 423 infections had been detected in the crisis-worn South American country, with 10 deaths.

However, those figures have been challenged by his opposition rival Juan Guaido, who says the number of infections and the death toll from the virus are far greater in a country where the health service has collapsed during years of economic crisis.

In principle, people are allowed to leave their homes only for medical visits or to shop for food, but violations are increasingly commonplace, especially in Caracas and the poorest regions of the country where people mostly survive in the informal economy.

"Do not falter, it is time to stay firm," Maduro said in his address, urging the population to respect the confinement measures.

Maduro presides over a crippled economy from which millions have fled, amid hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine. Since the pandemic, the shortages are increasing, particularly of gasoline.

Earlier Tuesday, Venezuela announced it was prolonging until June 12 the suspension of all flights to and from the country.