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Venezuela's capital, Caracas. The nation was not included in the report due to an absence of data.

Venezuela bans Europe flights, asks US to lift sanctions

Venezuela's capital, Caracas. The nation was not included in the report due to an absence of data.

Venezuela is suspending flights from Europe and Colombia to slow the pandemic that threatens to overwhelm its crumbling health system.

President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro

Authorities have administered “tens” of tests for the new coronavirus, all of which were negative, President Nicolas Maduro said.

The government will also ban large events and may shut land crossings with Colombia and Brazil. Maduro also called on the US government to lift sanctions, which he said increases the cost of buying medical supplies to fight the virus.

“Even if we do get supplies, so many of our workers, from doctors to technicians and administrators, have migrated.”

– Dr Judith Leon, president of the bioanalyst federation of Venezuela.

“At this time, having administered tens of tests in suspicious cases, the COVID-19 virus hasn’t arrived in Venezuela, but we have to be prepared with serenity, safety and cooperation,” Maduro said, speaking from the presidential palace in Caracas.

Medical staff are alarmed that the country is utterly unprepared for the health crisis that may be about to hit it. While doctors in the US complain about the lack of virus tests, some Venezuelan hospitals don’t even have soap.

Maduro said tens of tests have been administered with no coronavirus confirmations.

The virus is spreading rapidly in neighbouring Colombia and Brazil, but Venezuela has yet to confirm a case. This may be because authorities are ill-equipped to perform tests, or because the country’s isolation has slowed the arrival of the illness since only a handful of airlines still fly there.

Hospital Protest

Doctors and patients gathered outside Venezuela’s largest children’s hospital on Thursday to protest the nation’s collapsed health system which they say leaves them especially vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters dressed in hospital scrubs and lab coats stood across the street from the J.M. de Los Rios hospital in Caracas, where cardiologists and oncology specialists treat sick children from all over the nation.

Venezuela’s health system is among the world’s worst with hospitals facing severe shortages and patients turned away due to overcrowding.

“Where are the health ministry’s orders to let us know what protocol to follow, or when supplies are supposed to arrive?” said Dr Judith Leon, president of the bioanalyst federation of Venezuela. “Even if we do get supplies, so many of our workers, from doctors to technicians and administrators, have migrated.”

Venezuela’s health system is ranked among the worst in the world in its capacity to detect, quickly respond and mitigate a pandemic, according to the Global Health Security Index. Hospitals operate with shortages of almost everything, and patients are often turned away due to overcrowding or asked to bring in their own gauze, IV solution or syringes.