In early March, Venezuela declared an emergency nation-wide quarantine and lock-down in the face of the coronavirus, which continues to this day. Airports have been closed, international and even inter-state travel has been limited. This may be the right measure because the country’s public health infrastructure does not have the capacity to deal with this pandemic.
In mid-March, in coordination with the clinics and doctors with whom we work, the Turimiquire Foundation closed down 90% of its operations in compliance with this national quarantine, maintaining only essential medical services. We are now reopening family planning services on a limited basis. These services are needed more than ever. As women frequently call to tell us, families confined in quarantine will be producing more unintended babies if they cannot get access to birth control. We are finding ways to offer access to pills, injections and condoms for our rural clientele and medical attention for implants, IUDs and outpatient surgeries, with a priority on keeping everyone safe. We are working hard to make up for lost ground!
Since the quarantine began several months ago, Venezuela is registering new positive cases of Covid-19 daily with fortunately few recorded deaths. Most of the cases are registered in the densely populated center of the country. Outlying rural areas like our own state of Sucre in the northeast quadrant of the country, have shown very few cases to date, though this may be due to the lack of testing.
Updated information is released almost daily by the Vice President for Communication, Culture and Tourism, Jorge Rodríguez, from the Presidential Command Post at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. “The curve remains flattened so far,” says Rodríguez, while calling on the population “to be more disciplined and strictly comply with the social, collective and voluntary quarantine as a preventive measure that will cut the transmission chain of this virus that is highly contagious and can be fatal.” In many states, the Military and the National Guard are in the streets enforcing compliance, and some doctors feel that this may be a necessary measure in order to avoid the country becoming another humanitarian disaster zone. As in other countries, there is active debate about the tradeoffs between public health and safety, and the economic and human rights of the quarantined population, with no solution in sight.
Map of Coronavirus to Date in Venezuela