Nicaraguans Quarantined in Zaragoza, Spain Receive Protection

View from the highway in Zaragoza. The Head of Traffic Control and the Civil Guard are installing controls along the highways leading out of the large cities to avoid people leaving for their second homes. Photo: Javier Cebollada / EFE

They fear that more people were infected in the church where Nicaraguan pastor Nereyda Palacios preached. Palacios died of Covid-19 last Thursday.

Por Ivan Olivares  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The death of Nereyda Palacios in Zaragoza, Spain, has brought consternation to the Nica community that resides in this city in northeastern Spain, part of the autonomous community of Aragon.

Palacios, who served as pastor in a church, fell ill on March 9. She went to a hospital and was sent home. When she felt worse, she returned there and was admitted, until she took a turn for the worse and died of a heart attack. She was the first Nicaraguan to die in Spain from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There’s great concern that those who attended this church, among them, many Nicaraguans, could have been infected. According to comments, when the epidemic began, she was praying in the church that the contagion would be contained,” stated Nicaraguan citizen Scarleth Castillo on the online news program Esta Semana.

Originally from Chinandega in Nicaragua, Castillo has been residing in Zaragoza for 14 years. She has formed a family there with her Nicaraguan spouse and two daughters. In the autonomous community of Aragon, there are some 8,000 Nicaraguans, the second largest community of Nicas in Spain, after Madrid.  The majority of them live in Zaragoza, the regional capital.  Their numbers increased notably when, after the April 2018 rebellion, Nicaraguans fleeing the repression exercised by the Ortega-Murillo regime began to arrive there.

News of how this plague has advanced over the length and breadth of the planet, has served to convince citizens that the best thing for them is to stay home as the most effective mechanism to diminish the spread of contagion.

“Aragon has been in quarantine since March 13.  That Friday, they closed the schools and universities, and starting Saturday we’ve been staying at home. The parents have to be the teachers, since they’ve left the children a ton of homework. The classes don’t stop advancing,” Castillo explained.

In the interview, she said that the educational authorities “have assured us that the children can continue studying, so that they don’t lose the thread of the classes.  At home, we all dedicate our mornings to the homework.”

Even so, the quarantine doesn’t guarantee their total isolation, because “my partner works in a market” that opens to the public at 5:30 in the morning. “The establishments that sell food can’t close.”

In the interview, Scarleth says: “these days have been pretty frantic. People mobbed the supermarkets and the shops like crazy, buying food as if it was going to run out, even though the government already said that there wouldn’t be any shortages.”

Now, the situation seems to be calming down little by little, especially as citizens see that there are, in fact, no short supplies, “and they stopped buying in bulk,” Scarleth declared.

Spanish government gives help to the Nicaraguans

Until Friday, March 20, there were more than 360 infections reported in Zaragoza and 17 deaths. On that same date, Nicaragua was reporting that they had barely confirmed their second case of the disease.  Castillo is worried about the Nicaraguans who still live there, because she feels that those living in Spain are relatively secure.

Although it’s true that many of the Nicas who recently arrived have still not received asylum and don’t have jobs, “here, we have some social services that are very good, and at least we know that they have food. The churches have also donated food, so that with this quarantine, we know that they’re pretty well off in that aspect,” she said.

The news that she receives from Nicaragua has her “very worried”. “It’s true that there’ve been thousands of cases and many deaths in Spain, where things are chaotic, but Nicaragua worries me more, because they’re not giving this the importance that it should have,” she assured.

In Castillo’s eyes, “this is a virus that we’re just getting to know, and I don’t see the government alerting the population sufficiently. I don’t see them doing anything at all! The people I know in Nicaragua, and my family. say they’re taking precautions, but on their own, not because the authorities have told them to: they’re not sending the children to school, and they’re avoiding crowds, which is the most basic thing.”

She also told of the surprise that some friends of hers in the NGOs expressed, “it seemed incredible to them that the government would be calling for marches, when we’re in a pandemic.”

Regarding the Nicaraguans who were seeking asylum in Aragon, Castillo assured that the protection that the state has given to confront the pandemic, covers them as well.

“All the Nicas who have come to ask for asylum have registered with the social services. I don’t know any that haven’t done so. The social services are government entities that help people who are vulnerable in some way. They help them with rent and with food as well – they give them a check to go and buy in the supermarkets.  They offer them a hand, and we’re sure that they’ll continue doing so,” she detailed.

In fact, during the pandemic, the social services are precisely one of the places that continue working,” Castillo added.

The Nicaraguan said that although the initial quarantine period is two weeks, they know that it’s very probable it will be extended.

“We’re very sure that the quarantine will continue in April,” because they’re expecting an increase in the number of infections. “We know that the symptoms appear later, so that for some days people with Coronavirus will continue appearing. There are always people that don’t take measures, as if they didn’t see this as important,” Scarleth Castillo concluded.


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