We list the seven errors that the Government of Daniel Ortega has made on the spread of Covid-19, despite international experiences and WHO recommendations.
By Keyling T. Romero (Niu-Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – The United States, China, Italy and Spain have two things in common on the pandemic that has infected more than 890,000 people worldwide. The first is that they are the countries that have registered the most cases of Covid-19 infections so far; the second is that these four nations made the same mistake: underestimating the spread of the pandemic.
Nicaragua, although to date only has four confirmed cases by the Government, is repeating the same mistake.
The Government of Daniel Ortega has not ordered the closure of the borders, as other Central American countries have done, it has not suspended mass activities; nor has it recommended social isolation.
“Nicaragua has not established, nor will it establish, any type of quarantine. If there are cases with respiratory symptoms and an epidemiological link, that person, or persons, will be admitted to a health unit for study and follow-up,” stated the Minister of Health, Carolina Davila, in late February.
Niu Magazine listed these and other errors that the Government has made, to stop the expansion curve that coronavirus could mark in the country.
- Marches and house to house visits
The main recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), to stop the spread of coronavirus, is to avoid crowds, since it is easily transmitted. However, three days before the Government confirmed the first case of Covid-19, Vice President Rosario Murillo announced a big pro-government rally.
“We are going to be walking with the force of faith and hope throughout the country, in solidarity with all the people, families and brothers of the entire world who are facing this pandemic. Love in times of Covid-19,” she said.
Days later, the Government carried out a health campaign, which consisted in house-to-house visits by Ministry of Health (MINSA) personnel, supporters of Ortega, state workers and even National Police officers. According to Murillo, they visited 6,529 neighborhoods, regions and communities in the country, where 736,471 families live. Visitors did not comply with basic protection measures, such as using a face mask.
- No quarantines
Four months after the world’s first case of Covid-19 was confirmed, nations know with certainty that the only measure to stop the spread of the pandemic is social isolation and frequent handwashing. However, governments such as Nicaragua, Mexico and Brazil encourage their citizens to continue their normal lives, to give kisses and hugs.
Faced with this inaction on the part of Nicaraguan authorities, scores of businesses, including bars, restaurants, commercial stores, cinemas and gyms, decided to close operations to try to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Some private schools and universities did the same, who switched to e-learning. Some companies have even implemented teleworking. This has caused a significant decrease in traffic in the capital, and in people in shopping centers.
- Promotion of tourism
Even though there are officially four confirmed cases of Covid-19 cases and six suspected cases, the government continues to promote vacationing and tourist activities in preparation for the upcoming Holy Week, inaugurating water parks, organizing carnivals and receiving cruises with tourists.
“So far we have received 85 tourist options for families and tourists to travel and enjoy the land of lakes and volcanoes. Soon on our social networks and web pages we will publish a list with all this information,” announced Felix Sanchez, in charge of national promotion of the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR).
According to a note published on the website of this institution, the Ministry of Health has transmitted the measures that they must abide by if they suspect a case of Covid-19, or if they receive tourists from countries where the virus is. But they do not detail what they are.
This month, the government spokesperson celebrated the arrival in the country of the Rotterdam and Seven Seas Splendor cruises, with hundreds of people from various countries. “Welcome brothers of the world to this blessed Nicaragua, always free and always full of hope, faith and solidarity,” said VP Murillo.
- Do not close borders
The Ortega government refuses to close down Nicaraguan borders, despite the fact that neighboring countries, Honduras and Costa Rica, have already made that decision. The facts point to the authorities prioritizing the economic impact the country’s isolation would generate, above the health damages. Since, this is the third year that Nicaragua suffers from recession after the civic protests of 2018 and subsequent government repression.
The four confirmed cases of Nicaraguans “were imported,” that is, they were infected outside the country. This has been highlighted as positive by Murillo. However, the state leaves out that if the borders had been closed, the possibilities of contagion would have been reduced.
In spite of that, air traffic in Nicaragua has been reduced. Of the nine commercial airlines operating in the country, six have suspended their flights, as a preventive measure. Currently only Covinsa, Aeromexico and Aruba are flying.
- No use of masks
Although the use of masks is recommended only for citizens who have flu symptoms or people who have contact with them, such as doctors and nurses; Nicaraguan government authorities decided to ban them so as not to alarm the population, according to complaints of health personnel.
“The management’s directive is not to wear masks to “not alarm” patients. However, doctors and nurses disagree and requested N-95 masks,” they reported to journalist Wilfredo Miranda of Confidencial.
- Secrecy vs public information
In Nicaragua, information on the pandemic has been limited. The authorities were forced to share after an official document entitled “Protocol for the Preparation and Response to the Risk of Introduction of the Coronavirus Virus,” prepared by the MINSA in February 2020,” was leaked.
This, added to the inaction of the authorities, has caused uncertainty among Nicaraguans, who see how in other countries they are tightening measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic and there is public information on the state of the virus in the country.
The information on how many Covid-19 tests have been carried out is ambiguous, the Secretary General of the MINSA, Carlos Saenz, said in an interview with Channel 10: “There were around, I cannot say, there were about, more or less some 200.” Murillo even said on Sunday that there are places of isolation, but they will not say where they are at.
“It is because we prefer that this isolation takes place in unknown places, including so that the person won’t suffer from (discriminatory) attitudes that sometimes human beings almost always have for fear,” she said.
- Disclose sensitive patient information
Although the government spokesperson affirms that “privacy is not only a norm, it is a rule, but also a protection for these people (patients with Covid-19),” the truth is that she disclosed sensitive information that violated the human rights of the second confirmed case. Because at the time of public disclosure, she emphasized that this person was an HIV carrier.
This violates Law 820 or Law for the Promotion, Protection and Defense of Human Rights involving HIV and AIDS, for its Prevention and Care, which in its article 12 establishes that “it is a mandatory compliance for authorities with administrative positions in public and private institutions, to guarantee the confidentiality of people with HIV or AIDS condition.”