Venezuela Is a Health ‘Time Bomb,’ Colombian President Says

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Venezuela Is a Health ‘Time Bomb,’ Colombian President Says

BY JULIA SYMMES COBB and Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian President Ivan Duque on Friday called Venezuela a public health “time bomb,” and said the lack of reliable information about the status of its neighbor’s coronavirus outbreak was a worry as his administration tries to con

Brazil has the world’s second highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States, registering more than 1.2 million cases and nearly 55,000 deaths. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic.

Duque said in contrast with Venezuela, Brazil and its officials are making efforts to control the virus, however.

“It must also be emphasized that (Brazil) has much more trustworthy, more credible institutions,” he said.

“Also regionally we’ve seen state governors are trying to do more tests, putting in measures, there is a coordinated effort with national authorities.”

Thanks to an economic and social lockdown put in place in late March, Colombia’s infection levels are “much more an ellipse” than a spike, Duque said.

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New cases are concentrated in a handful of municipalities and deaths in those over 60 years old, he said.

The country, which has boosted its number of intensive care units by 17% since the start of the pandemic, is trying to increase the number of ventilators as well.

“Colombia should get close to 10,000 ventilators, which will translate to a robust capacity in intensive care units,” he said.

Between spending on social programs and healthcare, government credit guarantees and liquidity efforts by the central bank, the equivalent of 11.3% of gross domestic product is working to fight the coronavirus, Duque said.

Almost 90% of the country’s economic activity was “in the process of recovery,” he contended.

The finance ministry has said the economy will contract 5.5% this year.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.