Spike in Venezuela Covid Cases Bucks Decline in South America
(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s weekly Covid-19 infections rose the most since the pandemic started as large gatherings and the slowest vaccine rollout in South America fuel the spread of the delta variant.
New weekly cases surpassed 10,000 for the first time, according to government data, overwhelming hospitals and clinics and forcing infected patients to hunt for treatment.
“The demons are unleashed regarding a third wave,” said Enrique Lopez-Loyo, president of the National Medicine Academy. “Without a doubt we believe this is an explosion of the delta variant in Venezuela.”
The situation makes the country an outlier on a continent where infections have slowed since the end of August. South America, one of the hardest-hit regions, had created a form of immunity from surges earlier in the year and responded well to vaccination campaigns.
Venezuela has detected the delta variant in several states, officials have said. Complicating matters, political rallies being held as part of campaigns for Nov. 21 local elections are increasing risks of contagion, as hundreds of people gather in public places.
While President Nicolas Maduro’s government recently discussed easing lockdown policies and allowing children to return to school, officials have said cases are rising in at least three states and Caracas. Police this week reinstated checkpoints along the main roads entering the capital.
The country was largely spared from the worst of the virus in the beginning of 2021. But its immunization campaign has lagged due to supply delays and issues with vaccine purchases, which the government blamed on U.S. economic sanctions.
The country’s vaccination rate remains the lowest in South America, with almost 6 million having completed the full scheme, a rate of 20.8 per 100 people, according to data from the Pan American Health Organization. Neighbors Colombia and Brazil have rates of 33 and 40.1, respectively, while Chile has vaccinated 73.6 per 100 people.
Despite the slow start, Venezuela now claims it has enough Russian, Chinese and Cuban vaccines to protect 70% of the population. All adult citizens are now eligible for the shot without an appointment.
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