CARACAS – Many Venezuelans shrugged off concerns about the coronavirus and hunted for bargains on Black Friday, which was moved up by one week under leftist incumbent Nicolas Maduro’s week-on, week-off economic reopening plan.
Around nine months after the pandemic first took hold in the region, Venezuela still has relatively low totals of just 98,665 confirmed cases and fewer than 900 deaths, according to official figures.
On Friday, hundreds of people poured into commercial establishments and shopping centers after they opened their doors at 7:00 am. Shoppers had started forming lines beforehand, according to security guards who were tasked with ensuring compliance with the government’s COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Retailers like El Sambil, the country’s largest shopping mall chain, deployed a team of staff to ensure that people were wearing masks properly and also placed anti-bacterial hand gel dispensers in different areas of the establishment.
“There are lots of people in spite of the pandemic and, well, I came to buy the kids a few things for December and here we are. There are loads of people. I think it’s good so that the country’s economy gets going again,” architect Gerald Gudiño said while waiting in line to enter a store.
EFE visited a few retail outlets in eastern Caracas offering Black Friday deals and found that prices had been slashed by between 20 percent and 50 percent at appliance, clothing and footwear stores that sell merchandise in dollars, a currency now widely accepted in more affluent areas.
Although demand is lower than last year, according to store managers, there were still large numbers of people willing to defy the pandemic.
Some shoppers, such as Rodolfo Caruzzi, said Black Friday is an opportunity for customers to help retailers “recover a portion of all (the business) that’s been lost this year.”
Venezuela’s economy, mired in a years-long recession and struggling under the weight of the United States’ crushing sanctions on its life-blood oil industry, suffered another blow this year when the government adopted strict measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Maduro’s current 7x7 COVID-19 mitigation system, non-essential businesses and venues such as stores, parks and resorts are authorized to receive customers one week but then must be closed to the public the following week.
Some retailers have criticized this approach, saying they must be allowed to operate daily to remain afloat in Venezuela’s battered economy.
EFE, meanwhile, has observed commercial establishments flouting the rules in recent weeks and receiving customers on a continuous basis.