Accessibility links

Breaking News

Facebook Freezes Venezuelan President’s Page Over COVID Misinformation

FILE - Teachers wait as they maintaining social distancing before receiving a dose of the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a public school in Caracas, Venezuela, March 25, 2021.
FILE - Teachers wait as they maintaining social distancing before receiving a dose of the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a public school in Caracas, Venezuela, March 25, 2021.

Facebook has frozen Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s page, according to a spokesperson for the social media giant, because the page contained misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maduro violated Facebook policy when he posted a video without any medical evidence, promoting Carvativir, a drink made with the herb thyme, as a cure for the coronavirus, a company spokesperson told Reuters. He described the drink as a “miracle” medication capable of neutralizing the coronavirus without any side effects.

“We follow guidance from the WHO [World Health Organization] that says there is currently no medication to cure the virus,” Facebook’s spokesperson told Reuters.

The company said it is taking action to limit use of Maduro’s Facebook page. “Due to repeated violations of our rules, we are also freezing the page for 30 days,” the company spokesperson said, “during which it will be read-only.”

Brazil is averaging nearly 2,400 deaths a day from COVID-19, about one-fourth of the world’s daily tally, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The South American nation is on pace to reach 4,000 deaths a day, six experts told The Associated Press, a level that would rival the worst seen in the U.S., which has about one-third more people. The U.S. set a record of 4,477 deaths on Jan. 12, according to Johns Hopkins data.

“Four thousand deaths a day seems to be right around the corner,” Dr. José Antônio Curiati, a supervisor at Sao Paulo’s Hospital das Clinicas, the biggest hospital complex in Latin America, told the AP.

President Jair Bolsonaro remains unconvinced that restrictions on activity are needed. At this point, they may be too late.

Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University who advised several Brazilian governors and mayors on pandemic control, anticipates the total death toll reaching 500,000 by July and exceeding that of the U.S. by year-end, according to the AP.

“We have surpassed levels never imagined for a country with a public health care system, a history of efficient immunization campaigns and health workers who are second to none in the world,” Nicolelis said. “The next stage is the health system collapse.”

Spain tests mass-gathering limits

In Spain, an experiment is under way to find a pandemic-safe way to hold mass events indoors. The setting is an arena in Barcelona filled with 5,000 fans Saturday night for a live concert.

The morning of the show, those looking to attend came to one of three field hospitals set up in closed nightclubs. They were given COVID-19 and antigen tests, tests introduced to the body to induce an immune response. If they tested negative, they received a pass to the show and were told to wear a surgical mask. The arena was equipped with a ventilation system.

“Over the next 14 days we will look at how many of the audience test positive for COVID and will report back,” Josep Maria Llibre, a doctor at the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital just north of Barcelona, told Agence France-Presse.

The aim is “to discover a way in which we can coexist with COVID and hold concerts which are completely safe,” Ventura Barba, executive director of Barcelona's Sonar festival, one of the organizers, told AFP.

WHO seeks COVAX donations

The head of the World Health Organization on Friday urged the global community to donate COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, citing the urgent need for 10 million doses for a WHO-backed vaccine distribution program.

“COVAX is ready to deliver but we can’t deliver vaccines we don’t have,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual news conference in Geneva.

COVAX, an abbreviation for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative, aims to provide equitable access to vaccines worldwide to low- and middle-income countries.

“Bilateral deals, export bans, and vaccine nationalism have caused distortions in the market with gross inequities in supply and demand,” Tedros said. “Ten million doses are not much, and it’s not nearly enough.”

Tedros’ appeal comes after India, a key supplier to the agency’s COVAX vaccine-sharing program, said it was prioritizing local needs.

The WHO chief said India’s move was “understandable” given the rising number of infections in India. He said talks were in progress with India to find a balance between local and international needs.

India said Friday it set a record with a tally of more than 59,000 new cases from the previous 24-hour period.

UN demands fair vaccine access

At the United Nations in New York, 181 nations signed onto a political declaration that calls for COVID-19 vaccinations to be treated as a global public good, ensuring affordable, equitable and fair access to vaccines for all.

“We can see the end of the crisis, but to reach it, we need to work together with a deeper sense of collaboration,” part of the declaration states.

Among the appeals are calls on nations to fully fund the COVAX facility to distribute vaccines to low-income and developing countries, scale up vaccine production through the distribution of technology and licenses and launch public information campaigns on the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

COVAX has so far distributed more than 31 million doses of vaccines to 57 countries.

“There is a race everywhere between the vaccines and the pandemic,” said Lebanon’s Ambassador Amal Mudallali, on behalf of the countries that drafted the document. “This race will be won before the start by the ‘haves,’ if there is no equitable, affordable sharing of vaccines.”

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday there are more 126 million global COVID-19 infections. The research center updates its data constantly and provides expert input.

The United States has more cases than any other country, with more than 30.2 million infections, followed by Brazil, with 12.5 million, and India, with almost 12 million, according to the center.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.