No gloves, no masks: Venezuela’s exposed health workers

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Medics are dying in large numbers from Covid-19 as they work with minimal protective equipment

Vanessa Silva in Caracas and Gideon Long in Bogotá

José Manuel Olivares begins his press conference with a roll call, reading the names of the Venezuelan health workers who have died from coronavirus. It takes him a while. There are 115 people on his fast-expanding list.

The dead include nurses from the western state of Zulia and from Delta Amacuro at the mouth of the Orinoco river; doctors from the coastal state of Vargas and from Apure, in the southern jungle; biomedics, radiologists and pulmonologists; a gastroenterologist from the eastern state of Monagas, drafted in to help his colleagues.

“These are doctors who will never again make a diagnosis, nurses who will never again administer medicine,” said Dr Olivares, a member of congress who is in Bogotá having fled Venezuela in 2018. “They are Venezuelans who are no longer with us and [President] Nicolás Maduro is to blame for that, having destroyed the health system.”