Government in Nicaragua Keeps a Lid on Coronavirus Tests

The Coronavirus test, image only for purposes of illustration.

Doctors had already reported some suspicious cases before confirmation of the first positive patient, but all the tests are being processed in the “Conchita Palacios” National Heath Complex

By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The first official case of Coronavirus in Nicaragua was confirmed on the evening of March 18, but there had already been other suspected cases registered at least a week previously.  This was confirmed to Confidencial by diverse sources from public and private hospitals.  However, the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have centralized the Coronavirus tests and kept the information quiet.

The doctors sent the tests to the “Conchita Palacios” National Health Complex, where the Health Ministry has centralized all of this type of analysis. However, the Ortega-Murillo regime hasn’t issued any information about the realization of these tests for Covid-19.

In the Military Hospital, one of the medical centers of reference in Nicaragua, they’ve seen “ten suspected cases”, stated a source from that center, which belongs to the Nicaraguan Army. “Up until Wednesday, only two of those ten people were still left in isolation.  Both have a primary doctor who doesn’t leave their side,” the source added.

Meanwhile, in the German-Nicaraguan Hospital, “since last week we’ve seen suspected cases, but all the tests have come back negative,” a doctor stated.

In the city of Matagalpa, sources from the health clinics there assured Confidencial that they sent four tests from suspected patients to the “Conchita Palacios” Health Complex on Wednesday, March 18. Two of these patients have been admitted to the “Cesar Amador Molina” Teaching Hospital, and the others are in the Santa Fe Medical and Surgical Center.

The doctors concurred that the Covid-19 tests sent to Managua have been treated with great secrecy by the Health Department authorities, “Almost at the level of a State secret.”

Illogical level of secrecy

Epidemiologist Leonel Arguello doesn’t understand the logic of hiding information when it’s a matter of confronting a pandemic. The specialist maintains that transparency is key to avoiding the propagation of the virus. Arguello disregarded the idea that reporting on the realization of tests for Coronavirus could cause more panic in the population.

“The centralized Conchita Palacios’ complex is the only place in the Health Ministry to process the tests. It takes between 3 and 4 hours to know the results. Obviously, they’re keeping the information under wraps. They may allege that reporting on the tests will cause panic, but maintaining constant communication and saying – for example – that ‘as a government we’ve investigated 40 suspicious cases and none turned out to be positive’, then people are going to relax,” said the epidemiologist.

Miguel Orozco, director of the Center for Health Research and Study (CIES), said that in Nicaragua there’s technical capacity to process Covid-19 tests, but they aren’t aware if in Nicaragua “they’ve done the test, or if they have the reagent” to perform them, since the material is imported from countries that are currently scrambling to confront their own Coronavirus epidemic.

“We know from the Chinese experience that in the cases that become ill, sometimes the test isn’t enough to detect (the Coronavirus). Their sensitivity is low, and you can get false negatives,” Orozco warned. “What are the Chinese doing so that no one escapes them? They’re using scans, imaging, axial scans… that is, something more complex, that requires a logic in their approach. It’s not just a test.”

Nicaraguan epidemiologists warn that the lack of prevention of the Covid-19 could imply the risk of an “exponential multiplication” of contagion in the country. The most serious consequence of the total lack of a contention strategy for the Coronavirus is that it could reach 177,000 positive cases in the worst-case scenario, according to Dr. Leonel Arguello.

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