July 8, 2020 / 11:58 PM / a month ago

Governor of Venezuela's COVID-plagued Zulia state in clinic - sources

(Reuters) - The governor of the Venezuelan state of Zulia, which President Nicolas Maduro has identified as a coronavirus hotspot, has checked into a clinic to seek treatment for respiratory trouble, three sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

Omar Prieto was admitted on Tuesday night to a private clinic near Zulia’s capital of Maracaibo where he is receiving preventative treatment while he awaits the results of a COVID-19 test, according to two of the sources.

A positive test result would underscore the severity of the outbreak in Zulia, which borders neighbouring Colombia, and signal that high-ranking officials in Maduro’s government are at risk in the pandemic.

Prieto’s press office and Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Zulia has been among states hardest hit by Venezuela’s crumbling power and water services, hampering efforts to maintain basic sanitation even in hospitals.

Officials say many of the cases originated in a sprawling food market known as the Maracaibo Flea Market that has long been known for its overcrowding and poor sanitation.

Maduro in a televised broadcast on Wednesday announced 317 new cases of the virus, taking the total to 8,010.

He did not mention Prieto.

The ruling Socialist Party says Venezuela has handled the outbreak better than other Latin American nations, and that most of the country’s cases come from Venezuelan migrants returning from Colombia and Brazil.

Opposition leaders have questioned the official figures, pointing to a lack of transparency in reporting cases and persecution of journalists and health workers who question official data.

Reporting by Reuters Venezuela; Editing by Richard Chang

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