Venezuela tightens COVID-19 measures in capital after surge

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Wednesday a tightening of containment measures in the capital Caracas and neighboring Miranda state to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

According to official figures, Venezuela was one of the least affected countries in Latin America by the virus pandemic for the first couple of months 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 cases but just three days to go from 7,000 to 8,000 cases.

"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 on Twitter.

This new 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 the 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.

On Tuesday, Venezuela surpassed 10,000 cases, according to official figures, although the opposition and organizations such as Human Rights Watch believe the true numbers are much greater.