Maduro spoke to the nation today about the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, and said that while there were no cases yet reported in the country, Venezuela had to get ready for the possibility of an outbreak within its borders. During the televised speech, Maduro was flanked by vice president Delcy Rodriguez, whom he has put in charge of the governmnet’s efforts to prepare the Venezuela for the arrival of the virus.
Maduro began the speech by saying that the spread of the virus is a global concern, and that it “could enter our country at any moment.” He also revealed that there have been 30 suspected cases of COVID-19 in Venezuela over the past three weeks, but that they have all returned negative.
Turning to the matter of preparedness, Maduro said:
We need the most social discipline to protect our people and our families.
As a result of the pandemic, Maduro said that he was declaring a “permanent health emergency” in the country. While he did not clearly explain exactly what the measure would allow his government to do, he said that in general it would result in “measures that will lead to more protection.”
The most drastic announcement during the speech came when Maduro said that he was halting all flights to and from Europe and Colombia in order to prevent the arrival of the virus. However, Maduro did not close the land border with either Colombia or Brazil. Both countries have reported cases of COVID-19, and the land border with Colombia sees heavy traffic on a daily basis.
Turning to what he says that he is willing to do to prevent the spread of the virus in Venezuela, Maduro said:
If we have to shut down towns or cities, we will do it… if we have to suspend classes throughout the country or in a town, we will do it.
If the school year were to be cut short, Maduro said that classes could continue “on social media”, although he probably meant to say that they could continue to take place online. It is not at all clear that this contingency would be feasible, given the fact that Venezuela regularly posts the slowest internet speeds in all of Latin America.
Throughout the speech, Maduro said that his government’s response to the virus threat was apolitical, and that every sector of the Venezuelan political sphere was welcomed to join in the efforts. However, when Maduro was prompted by a reporter from TeleSur to talk about how the Venezuelan opposition “is hoping for an outbreak”, Maduro said:
[To the opposition]: In the name of Jesus, don’t be so perverse.
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