Venezuela could soon be swallowed in South America’s coronavirus wave, experts warn

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Defying dire predictions, Venezuela so far seems to have avoided the coronavirus wave striking much of South America.

But experts warn that while the virus may have been slow to spread here, due in large part to Venezuela’s isolation, the number of daily illnesses could soon climb high enough to severely test the country’s already dilapidated health system.

President Nicolás Maduro’s government says the nation of roughly 25 million people has done widespread testing while recording just over 1,200 virus cases, along with 11 deaths, since the first case was diagnosed in mid-March.

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The low figures raise doubt among some critics about the accuracy of the testing program and government reporting. Other independent health experts, however, don’t think Maduro could conceal a significant surge in cases.

“If things were worse than they are now, we would have seen a lot coming out from social media — people talking about the increase of cases, hospitals being overrun,” said Dr. Gerardo de Cosío, the Caracas-based head of the Venezuela office of the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization.

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Neighboring Brazil has seen more than 270,000 cases and nearly 20,000 deaths so far,

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