The President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, proudly calls him “the Venezuelan model” to face the coronavirus pandemic.
While most countries have applied more or less strict but continued confinementIn Venezuela, an unusual intermittent quarantine has been established, known as the 7-7 system, in which the restrictions alternate with the relaxation of the measures.
With 4,365 reported infections and 38 deaths until June 25, Venezuela shows much lower figures than those of most American countries, of course, far from those of Brazil or the United States.
But the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has warned that most of the tests carried out in the country are rapid tests and unreliable, and that the actual number of infected could be much higher than that reported by the authorities.
Be that as it may, in recent weeks there has been an increase in cases that leads many experts to fear that the country is approaching the peak of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the epicenter of the illness it is now in Latin America.
What is model 7-7 and what is it based on?
It was the executive vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, who announced in a televised message on June 5 the details of the peculiar Venezuelan quarantine.
‘Seven days of work plus seven days of quarantine. But it must be a rigorous, disciplined quarantine“, said.
The Venezuelan model alternates periods of quarantine with others of relaxation of the measures. .
On quarantine easing days, ten economic sectors can return to activity, but very specific time restrictions are set for each of them.
In the 12 states plus the Capital District in which a greater increase in the number of cases has been detected flexibilization will not apply for now.
Rodríguez stated that the Venezuelan scheme was adopted after learning the recommendations of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) and the government’s Health Commission, but did not explain which they are its scientific bases.
BBC Mundo consulted the Ministry of Communication, but received no response.
The Venezuelan government applies a system that does not resemble the usual in other countries. .
Although the Venezuelan government has not explained whether it was inspired by him, his model looks like to the developed in Israel by scientists at the Weizmann Institute, which proposes that people work in two-week cycles, with ten days of quarantine and four days of going to work and school.
“It is an intermediate path that offers a balance between health and economy,” Uri Alon, a professor of biology and one of the researchers who developed the Israeli model, told BBC News.
Model 10-4 seeks to take advantage the so-called latency period of the virus, the three days that are believed to pass from when a person is infected until they can infect others.
Someone who would catch it during their activity period would not develop symptoms or the ability to infect until they were already back in the isolation phase. If the disease occurs, confinement should be prolonged, preventing it from spreading to others.
Can this quarantine model work in Venezuela?
Maduro often assures in his frequent appearances on state television that Venezuela “is defeating the coronavirus” and congratulates himself on the evolution of the pandemic in his country.
¡Pueblo de Venezuela! Esta primera semana de flexibilización salió muy bien, se dio una lección de civismo y de conciencia única en el mundo. #AhoraVamosAl7Más7, 7 días de cuarentena, seguidos de 7 días de trabajo con estricto cumplimiento de las medidas sanitarias. ¡Sí Se Puede! pic.twitter.com/nCcb99MR9n
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) June 6, 2020
But not everyone sees it the same way.
José Felix Oletta, former Minister of Health and member of the Venezuelan Society of Public Health, told BBC Mundo that “the conditions in Venezuela are not those of Israel, because it has a much larger population and it does not have the Israeli technology and media. “
Dr. Jaime Torres, expert in Epidemiology at the Central University of Venezuela, assures that “experience in other countries indicates that the results of confinement measures begin to be seen two weeks after being applied”, so the weekly alternation that arises in Venezuela “may not be enough”.
A cause and effect relationship has not been proven, but since the new quarantine model was implemented, the number of reported infections has only increased.
Maduro affirms that Venezuela “is winning the battle against the coronavirus” EPA
In addition, the Venezuelan government’s 7-7 system does not fit the estimated latency period of the virus, since one week is enough time for someone to contract, incubate and transmit it. The reduction of the risk of contagion derived from israeli model would disappear if its frequency is altered
Oletta believes that “the government has been acting on the premise of trial and error since the pandemic began.”
Before 7-7, the government had announced the application of a 5-10 model that was abandoned in just one week.
It also rectified the closure of the Caracas metro and other means of public transportation. widely used after large crowds and confusion were seen in the seasons on the day the measure went into effect.
The challenges of the pandemic for Venezuela
Whether or not its quarantine model works, Venezuela faces the coronavirus after years of a serious crisis It has hit both its economy and healthcare system.
The Pan American Health Organization considers it one of the most vulnerable countries in Latin America in the face of the pandemic and the National Survey of Hospitals, prepared annually by the organization Doctors for Health, detected important deficiencies in medical centers.
Venezuela has reported fewer cases than its neighbors Colombia and Brazil. .
More than 53% of hospitals did not have face masks, which increases the risk that health professionals will become major spreaders of the virus.
Drug shortage and lack of water in many hospital centers it has been denounced by local activists and the media for years.
Many communities lack a stable supply of running water, making it difficult to comply with frequent hand washing recommended as a first preventive measure.
Food is also lacking. According to the United Nations World Food Program, a third of the Venezuelan population it is in a situation of food insecurity.
Borders have become another big problem. Many Venezuelans who emigrated are trying to return due to the closure of the economies of the countries where they settled, and the government has detected that some are infected by viruses.
In response, he established reduced access quotas that prevent most of these Venezuelans from returning to their country, and Maduro has denounced the “Criminal trochers”, in allusion to the trails by which many irregularly enter Venezuelan territory.
Those who are allowed to enter through the authorized passages are forced into a controversial isolation that, according to various complaints, does not meet the appropriate conditions.
The opposition politician Tomás Guanipa has described as “concentration camps” the centers in which they are isolated.
Que la comunidad internacional sepa que en San Antonio y en Tienditas lo que existe hoy son “Campos de Concentración” del régimen de Maduro que pretenden disfrazarlos de aislamiento preventivo. Maduro sigue violando los derechos fundamentales de todos los venezolanos. pic.twitter.com/VK1bV28Alv
— Tomás Guanipa (@TomasGuanipa) April 8, 2020
For Dr. Oletta, the government is incurring “a criminalization of the victims of the disease, one more example of the lack of information and education for the public.”
In this context, the expert fears that the upward trend in contagion curve will accentuate in the coming weeks.
“The government quickly decreed a quarantine in March, but that does not make the virus disappear and the time we have gained then has not been used. The virus goes slower in Venezuela, but we go even slower. We are living a delayed epidemic“
Jaime Torres remembers that this is “a situation without hardly any precedent in the whole world, reason why tests are being carried out everywhere.”
“Only time will tell if the 7-7 model it worked«.