Who’s Advising These People?

Maduro just said that all people infected in Venezuela with COVID-19 will be taken to hospitals. It’s exactly the opposite of what should be done.

Photo: El Nacional retrieved

During his last TV broadcast on Tuesday, Maduro said that all patients with COVID-19 in the country would be moved to a designated center of integral diagnosis (CDI), facilities of the largely inoperative Barrio Adentro network. The “blue-collar president,” who clearly ignores the concepts of triage or hospitalization criteria, said it was an order, and readily instructed Health Minister Carlos Alvarado to carry it out.

“What’s better?” Maduro asked his viewers, “having these patients in their house, where they could infect their families, or having them sent home already cured? Logic, logic, Alvarado.”

If Maduro listened to any of the Chinese advisors who allegedly arrived to the country to help control the pandemic, they would probably tell him it’s better to keep patients home.

Well, if Maduro listened to any of the Chinese advisors who allegedly arrived to the country to help control the pandemic, they would probably tell him it’s better to keep patients home. Most infected patients will only get mild symptoms, but all will be infectious. 

Setting up a hospitalization ward for COVID-19 patients isn’t something you can do in a few hours. As explained in a previous post, there’s a series of guidelines prepared by the World Health Organization to minimize the risk of outbreaks. Moving even a small number of patients (Maduro said there were currently 40 patients being monitored in their homes) to a poorly equipped health center will only increase the chances of infecting personnel in charge of them or other patients, too. 

Flattening the curve, the strategy tirelessly repeated by most experts facing COVID-19 is all about reducing the burden on the health system. The whole idea of the strategy is reducing the number of infections, so you reduce the number of cases requiring hospitalization, so hospitals aren’t flooded with more patients than those they can handle.

Not to mention that if Maduro wants to actually admit everyone with coronavirus into a hospital, Venezuela must seriously scale up its diagnostic strategy, currently one of the most limited in the continent, and start detecting the unknown number of asymptomatic carriers that are likely to have been spreading the virus across the country for several weeks now. Reports from doctors in Venezuela also suggest the government is relying more and more on Chinese rapid diagnosis tests, which have found to be deficient, rather than PCR testing to detect cases.

“We’ve managed to contain the epidemic,” claimed Maduro, while most models suggest Latin America is yet to see a peak in cases.

Maduro’s announcement came just minutes after Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez coughed a couple of times in the middle of the broadcast, something she assured was due to a “strong allergy” and as Education Minister Aristobulo Istúriz talked for minutes, perfectly portraying how not to use a facemask. Istúriz also said the rest of the school year is suspended and classes will take place remotely. Getting ahead of the obvious fact that the continent’s slowest internet connection won’t make online teaching possible, Istúriz clarified that public TV channels have been instructed to dedicate part of their airtime to primary and high school education. How they’re going to adapt the entire curriculum to that model while bypassing the role of teachers was left unanswered.

How they’re going to adapt the entire curriculum to that model while bypassing the role of teachers was left unanswered.

Rodríguez also mentioned that there are protocols to receive “the fellow countrymen returning to the motherland,” protocols that, according to witnesses in San Antonio, a town next to the Colombian border, are based on stuffing everyone coming back into improvised camps and schools where running water is irregular and blackouts can last six to nine hours at a time.

After a somewhat logical initial approach, the improvisation behind Maduro’s response has been evidenced every time he opens his mouth. This is unsurprising of course, but it should be considered now that some are advocating in favor of giving more resources to chavismo, hoping it will somehow manage them correctly and spend them on logical strategies.

Juan Carlos Gabaldón

Medical doctor from Merida, currently studying Medical Parasitology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine