Venezuela faces threat of coronavirus catastrophe

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Oil price collapse and crumbling health system put Latin American nation at risk

Gideon Long in Bogotá

For health workers on the front line of Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, the coronavirus has added a terrible twist — a lack of masks has left them unprotected.

“Some workers are buying their own masks,” said Mauro Zambrano, a health worker and union leader in Caracas who has provided detailed information on the state of the city’s hospitals.

“You can get one for $1 which will last you a day or you can get a proper one for $7-$8. But — just imagine — we’re on salaries of $5-$6 a month — not enough to buy a single mask.”

Few countries are in a worse position to deal with Covid-19 than Venezuela. It was already reeling from US sanctions amid a worsening economic and social crisis, and has now been hit by lower oil prices which have slashed what is virtually its only legal source of revenue.