Venezuela puts seven states, including Caracas, in virus quarantine

Handout picture released by Miraflores Presidential Palace showing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro making a televised announcement at the Miraflores Presidential Palace, in Caracas, on March 15, 2020. – Venezuela put seven states, including Caracas, in virus quarantine. (Photo by – / Venezuelan Presidency / AFP)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered on Sunday a “collective quarantine” in seven states, including the capital Caracas, from Monday to stem the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic.

All activities in the seven states are to be suspended from 5:00 am on Monday, except food distribution, health services, transport and security, Maduro said in a television address to his crisis-devastated nation where the economy had already collapsed long before the pandemic struck.

“It’s not a collective vacation, no. It’s a collective quarantine that deserves great social discipline, great self-control,” said Maduro, adding that it meant people should stay “at home.”

Caracas alone is home to six million people.

This latest measure to combat the global pandemic comes after Maduro previously banned flights to and from Europe, Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic, as well as a suspending school and university classes, and sports events.

Venezuela reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, taking its total to 17.

Maduro said the quarantine was “the only way, there’s no other option.”

The socialist leader has said his response was inspired by that of China, one of Venezuela’s main commercial allies.

China put tens of millions of people under lockdown to help contain the spread of the virus, which has affected more than 80,000 Chinese and killed more than 3,000.

“The only way to contain the channels of transmission is to enter in a… drastic phase of collective quarantine throughout the country,” said Maduro.

© Agence France-Presse