No announcement yet.

Nicaragua and Covid-19: between a lack of information and a government that encourages agglomeration

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Nicaragua and Covid-19: between a lack of information and a government that encourages agglomeration


    Nicaragua and Covid-19: between a lack of information and a government that encourages agglomeration
    First modification: 09/14/2020 - 19:08
    Text by:
    Jorge Hurtado
    9 min

    Since the arrival of the coronavirus in the region, Nicaragua has been the only country that did not close its borders, did not suspend classes and did not restrict the mobility of its inhabitants. On the contrary, it established a policy of 'normality' by promoting agglomerations despite the pandemic. According to specialists, this attitude led to "excess mortality."

    Evangelical pastor Olmen Rivera recently reopened his temple after surviving Covid-19, which forced him for months to close face-to-face meetings. The story of his days sick with the pandemic is now part of the preaching and in his church washing hands is a requirement to enter.

    "I made the decision (to reopen) because we are in a place on the outskirts of Managua, isolated," says Rivera, although he admits that several members of the congregation stopped attending for fear of contagion, but they are not the majority. On this site religious gather between 40 to 70 people weekly, and now it reopens its doors at the request of the congregation, according to Rivera.

    The religious leader and his wife Maritza Tejada lead this congregation where many families with children attend. While the parents listen to the passionate speech of the pastor and review the biblical quotes that he mentions, the little ones play outdoors, run, hug each other and perform various recreational activities a few meters from the temple.

    “We cannot be so fearful because everything would come to a standstill. The world would be paralyzed and the church is not to be paralyzed. The church is to move forward, to move forward, ”says Tejada and admits that he has known of other temples where the contagion has claimed the lives of several religious leaders.

    After the announcement of the first contagion in Nicaragua on March 18, several private schools, gyms, movie theater chains and restaurants decided to close their doors. The population underwent a voluntary quarantine, which was reflected in Google's mobility indexes.

    Similarly, the Catholic Church canceled its main Easter week activities and closed the doors of its temples, which still do not allow massive activities. Also, most evangelical churches canceled their face-to-face meetings, but as of August, like the rest of the shops that had closed in March, they have started the de-escalation process.

    The figures that dispute the reality of the pandemic

    Currently, the progress of the pandemic in Nicaragua consists of two main sources of information: the official figures provided in a concise manner by the country's Ministry of Health, and those of the independent Citizen Observatory, a monitoring platform made up of doctors, specialists and members of civil society who seek to "fill the information gap" of official data.

    The Ministry of Health provides every Tuesday the figures of new infections, deaths and recovered people, without further demographic data and without access to independent media at press conferences. According to the most recent report, Nicaragua accumulates 4,818 cases of Covid-19 and only 144 deaths. But the Citizen Observatory reported 10,205 infections and 2,707 deaths in the same period, a huge difference.

    However, specialists warn that the effort of the Citizen Observatory does not keep accounts of cases with mild or asymptomatic symptoms and these cannot be detected in its system, so that the real number of the impact of the pandemic could be higher.

    "The Observatory's figures may only reflect 3 or 4 percent of the total number of people infected by Covid-19, but for each of these reported patients you will have 96 more cases circulating in the country," emphasizes ?lvaro Ram?rez, medical epidemiologist and advisor to the independent unions that monitor the pandemic.

    Ram?rez points out that the Government of Nicaragua is not complying with international health protocols by not providing more data on the behavior of the pandemic to health authorities worldwide and to its own citizens. "Nicaragua is the only country in America that does not report the number of laboratory samples nor does it report laboratory samples per million inhabitants," he adds.

    On several occasions, the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, has declared its "concern" over the lack of information and the invitations to massive events promoted by the local government. They even requested since July to enter the country to find out the reality of cases but until today they receive no response.

    The information that PAHO receives from the State is the same that citizens receive during these press conferences, which last an average of two minutes on open television.

    Dr. ?lvaro Ram?rez, who was also director of epidemiological surveillance for the Ministry of Health, comments that in these months the Government “bet on herd immunity, not to take actions to counteract the epidemic. Second, to a politicization of the problem of the pandemic ”, he recalls.

    After several absences from public life during the highest peak of the pandemic, President Daniel Ortega reappeared in April attacking the global “Stay at Home” initiative and instead invited Nicaraguans to continue their activities. “If we say stay home, which doctor will work, which nurse will work, which police will work? Those who have been with that speech are those who tried to destroy the country in April 2018, ”said Ortega at the end of April.

    For Dr. Ram?rez, that discourse changed when the pandemic began to affect relevant figures of the Government and the Sandinista party. "When ministers, mayors, deputy mayors, paramilitaries, senior members of the police and even deputies began to die, that was when the government learned that Covid-19 was something more serious," he says.

    "They are lives that could have been saved"

    For Dr. Carlos Hern?ndez, the reopening of businesses is due to the fact that in recent weeks there has been a decrease in infections reported by both official and unofficial figures. According to him, "although the distance between these two sources of information remains, the coincidence is that we are in a stage of the lowest number of cases and deaths since the peak of May and June."

    Hern?ndez points out that the second peak of infections could occur between October and December, but that on the part of the State, “there is a very great irresponsibility. There has been neither before, nor during, nor now, any epidemiological analysis from the Ministry of Health, "he claims.

    Hern?ndez, a member of the Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee, carried out an "analysis of overmortality" based on official data where he revealed that between March 11 and June 30, 2020, 4,429 more people died from diseases than the average in recent years "Attributable to Covid-19".

    “Despite the reduction in deaths, it is a perfectly avoidable amount. They are lives that could have been saved, ”says Hern?ndez, who criticizes the government's continuing to call for mass agglomerations.

    Government announces more activities for national holidays

    For her part, Rosario Murillo, government spokeswoman and first lady, justified her call for national parades in public schools in the country and declared that these “will be short, with those students who want to participate in national parades around schools, the communities where the boys live, celebrate the country with all the care ”.

    The Government extended the holidays for state workers, who will have a full week, and announced various activities to celebrate the national holidays, on September 14 and 15. Likewise, it announced its strategy to reactivate local tourism by exempting the Value Added Tax, VAT, for the tourism sector.

    Guiomar Ir?as, president of the Nicaraguan Institute of Municipal Development, made a tour through official media providing details of the activities that the Government will promote for national celebrations and although he did not detail how many activities he will carry out