CARACAS, Aug 9 (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro extended the state of alarm over the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday and at the same time ordered a relaxation of the quarantine in Caracas, which he said is the epicenter of COVID-19 in the country.
The state of alarm, in force since March, was extended for 30 days, Maduro said in an act broadcast on state television.
He added that along with Caracas at least six other regions of the country will once again have a partial lifting of confinement for 7 days, allowing the work of 10 sectors such as banking, transportation and construction, as well as the textile and footwear industry, among others.
In the rest of Venezuela, a “general relaxation” will prevail, although the use of masks and other preventive measures will continue to be recommended, said Vice President Delcy Rodríguez.
Caracas “has become the epicenter, our beloved city of Caracas (…) is the center of the pandemic in Venezuela,” Maduro said.
The authorities did not explain the reasons for applying a relaxation in the capital of the South American nation. The Communication and Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that issue.
Maduro also asked the ministerial team in charge of the pandemic to carry out an “epidemiological sweep” or tests in the Coche market, in the west of the capital, the largest point of sale of food in Caracas and where hundreds of buyers and sellers accumulate.
The president did not refer to the new accumulation of people, sometimes without physical distance or without masks, who wait hours in long lines to buy gasoline at service stations, in a new wave of fuel shortages.
As of Sunday, 25,805 infections and 223 deaths have been reported in Venezuela. The Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences of Venezuela had already anticipated in May that the cases would multiply from June to about 1,000 to 4,000 daily.
According to health specialists, the infection rate has been growing at a rate of 135% every week since June, when the official scheme of making the quarantine more flexible for seven days began to apply to continue with another 7 days of confinement.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Deisy Buitrago, Edited by Juana Casas)