When Nicolás Maduro decreed a two-week lockdown in Venezuela on the 21st, it was not the first time the dictator had adopted the measure. The novelty was the announcement of the massive distribution of a so-called “miracle” drug against the coronavirus to health centers and pharmacies across the country.
Carvativir, however, has no proven effectiveness in the fight against Covid. Composed of carvacrol, a substance found in oregano oil, the drug created by 19th-century Venezuelan physician José Gregorio Hernandez is used as an expectorant and has been classified by the FDA, the US drug regulatory agency. , as “safe and harmless for human consumption”.
The promotion of “miracle drops”, while Maduro sold the drug, prompted Facebook to suspend the Chavista page on the platform due to violations of the policy against false information about the pandemic. The decision was based on guidelines from the WHO (World Health Organization), which states that there is currently no medicine to cure the virus. In a way, the dictator’s speeches and the measurement of the social network have exposed the situation of the health crisis in Venezuela.
With a slow vaccination campaign, an increase in cases and deaths and the impending collapse of the country’s intensive care units, announcing the imposition of a lockout appears to have been the most effective solution in the short term to stop the worsening of the crisis, even if it was done à la Maduro, in a speech full of adjectives and your warrior.
If, in the first wave of Covid, the responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic was attributed to Colombian President Iván Duque, because the infections would come from Venezuelan migrants returning from the neighboring country, now the enemy is the Brazil of Jair Bolsonaro, where variants of the pathogen were detected.
In recent speeches, Maduro tries to give the impression that the regime is managing to contain the health crisis. Is not. Since the end of February, the number of cases has been increasing and the lack of confidence in the data published by the government projects an even more serious picture.
According to information compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the country of 28.8 million people has officially recorded 155,663 cases and 1,555 deaths. The Medicos por la Salud association, created in 2014 by independent professionals who cross-check the data to obtain figures closer to reality, estimates, however, that the number of infected people is at least four times higher.
“There are a lot of people who die at home, people who receive alternative treatments without being tested or who do not reach intensive care because the health system was already ruined by the Venezuelan crisis before the pandemic”, explains Doctor Julio Castro Méndez. There are only two laboratories in the country capable of testing for the virus, and both are in the capital Caracas.
In 2020, doctors in the city of Maracaibo warned of the collapse of the region’s intensive care units, which are hosting large numbers of refugees returning to Venezuela across the border with Colombia. There, dozens of health professionals died for lack of means to prevent contagion, according to the NGO Colegio de Medicos.
During the second week of February, two Brazilian variants of the virus were identified, P.1 and P.2, in at least five states: Vargas, Miranda, Anzoátegui, Monagas and Bolívar, in addition to the capital.
The increase in infections is confirmed by the directors of public and private medical centers. On the 15th, Germán Cortéz, president of the Association of Clinics and Hospitals of the Capital, said intensive care units at 11 clinics in Caracas were almost fully occupied – and still by patients with coronavirus.
Patricia Valenzuela, a doctor at Policlínica La Arboleda, says she has no way of accepting new patients – the area’s intensive care units are on the edge, with more than 20 beds occupied. “We see very sadly the traffic of ambulances in Caracas to find a place to intern a person.”
For Mauro Zambrano, union official for hospitals and clinics in Caracas, the government’s figures cannot be correct because “every day we see cases of people who are not tested for lack of reagents and necessary equipment”. “They are told to go home and buy pain relievers and antibiotics on the black market that doctors prescribe just to try and ease the symptoms.
Zambrano is asking for better conditions and assistance from medical professionals, who, he says, receive very low payments. “The salary of a doctor in Venezuela is not US $ 4 or 5, and that of a nurse US $ 2. We are losing professionals every day to disease.”
The president of the metropolitan polyclinic, Jimmy Levi, says for his part that until mid-March, it was possible to receive patients who arrived with symptoms. Now, however, “we have to improvise the emergency areas of the hospital to function as intensive care units, but without the same resources.”
Finally, the vaccination campaign is proceeding at a slow pace. Started on February 18, with 100,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine and 500,000 of the Russian Sputnik V, applications are currently reserved for health professionals. Maduro also announced that as soon as they pass phase 3 of the tests, Cuban drugs Soberana 1 and 2 and Abdala will be purchased by the country.
Meanwhile, the opposition group led by Juan Guaidó, which announced on Saturday evening (27) to be with Covid-19, is negotiating with Covax, a WHO mechanism for the supply of vaccines to developing countries, to buy doses for the country.
With the start of vaccination, so far most doses have been applied at the Caracas University Hospital, and distribution to other parts of the country has not yet started.