Nicaraguan Government Math on Covid-19 Hides Impact of Pandemic

A doctor takes a woman’s temperature as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, on April 25, during a boxing evening organized by the promoter Bufalo Boxing Promotions, at the facilities of the Alexis Arguello sports center in Managua. // Photo: EFE

Official data records 13 positive cases and at least 70 “suspected” cases, while reports grow of not admitted cases in independent count.

By Ivette Munguia  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Data from the Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo regime on the coronavirus pandemic in Nicaragua contrasts sharply with an increase of not admitted cases reported. Secrecy remains on the tests carried out, and the treatment of “suspected cases,” of which the Government does not provide details on their status or follow-up.

Almost a month and a half since the confirmation of the first positive case of coronavirus in the country, the Government has confirmed 13 positive cases and some 70 “suspected.” In contrast, independent organizations such as the Covid-19 Citizen Observatory report more than 300 cases and denunciations continue to increase.

Until the morning of this April 29, the Government maintains 13 positive cases, with three deceased and seven recovered, although one of those the MINSA (Ministry of Health) had given as “recovered” was afterwards one of the three deceased days later, adding doubts about the rigor of the data on Covid-19.

In parallel, the MINSA operates an addition and subtraction count of “suspected cases,” which day after day maintains at around a dozen, but which to date are almost 70 persons.

The Nicaraguan Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee warned on Tuesday of the need to have “real” information on Covid-19, as an “essential” requirement to protect doctors and other health personnel, as well as to make the impact of the pandemic transparent to the population.

Official data on Covid-19 is questionable and scarce

The Ministry of Health (MINSA) says it only reports the “careful and responsible monitoring” of these suspected cases. Doctors and specialists in health issues affirm that the term is not part of the universal medical literature.

Every day the government publishes a brief report with little information.

At the same time, MINSA statements on Covid-19 data in Nicaragua are becoming more concise and ambiguous, to the point that renowned infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists do not know if these people are in a hospital or in their homes with social distancing measures.

MINSA has omitted the information on the health condition of these people in “careful and responsible monitoring” that it began to mention on March 22, when it reported the first five cases. Nine days later, on the 31st of that month, the MINSA added to its communiques the term “recovered and in-home protection,” for which it can be deduced that each of the “suspected cases” would have been hospitalized at some moment.

Terms do not exist in medical literature

The terms “careful and responsible monitoring” or “recovered and in-home protection” are read in short MINSA official statements and repeated in the daily monologue of the Vice President Rosario Murillo, spokesperson and wife of Daniel Ortega. By telephone, Murillo controls all official information and manages public administration and the official response to the pandemic.

“All this, thank God, thanks to the will, commitment, dedication, in Christian love of the health workers and health community networks throughout the country. We are thankful to God for having the Ministry of Health that we have and the family and community health model, of direct presence, with which we try to fulfill our duty to our people every day, doing the best possible, with a sense of Christian mission,”  Murillo said this Tuesday to reiterate that the government did not confirm any new case during the day.

The infectious disease specialist Carlos Quant maintains that the language used in the MINSA statements “is quite confusing” and “it is difficult to interpret what it means” besides being “very short.”

Such a situation makes that “my interpretation may be different from the interpretation of other colleagues” because “that is not the language that we doctors use universally,” stressed the specialist.

Epidemiologist Leonel Arguello also commented: “I do not interpret them because everything I can interpret would be the product of my imagination. I simply do not understand them.”

57 suspected Covid-19 cases have been discharged

Despite the lack of clarity in the MINSA statements, with its series of additions and subtractions, Confidencial counted since March 31 to April 26, a total of 57 people “suspected” of Covid-19, who went from “careful and responsible monitoring” to “recovered and in-home protection, according to Covid-19 data provided by the regime.

Statement from the Ministry of Health on the behavior of Covid-19 in Nicaragua. Courtesy / Confidencial

Epidemiologist Leonel Arguello defines contacts as people who were less than a meter distance from the virus carrier, for at least 15 minutes, and who may have been infected through respiratory secretions or touched surfaces contaminated with coronavirus, so he insists on the need for social distancing.

This April 26, the MINSA reported that 15 people were under “careful and responsible monitoring.” The information, however, was discontinued on Monday, April 27, when the health authorities limited themselves to stating that monitoring will be given “to all people who warrant it.”

Real data on Covid-19 urgently needed in Nicaragua

The confusing information of the MINSA led the Nicaraguan Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee to warn of the need to have “real” information on Covid-19, as an “essential” requirement to protect doctors and other health personnel, who are in the “front line” to face the pandemic.

“It is essential that health personnel know the real situation they are facing. Epidemiological and service information should be analyzed daily, both that which is registered in the health unit itself as that which is produced in other units of the territory and at the national level,” indicated the Committee, made up of scientists, doctors and other specialties.

Official data contrasts with that of the Citizen Observatory, which monitors all the denunciations from the population, which reports at least 316 suspected cases in its latest report.

The importance of monitoring

Doctor Carlos Quant recalled that monitoring contacts “is a universal recommendation” that is applied when you have an infection. These people must remain under surveillance for 14 days “because that is the incubation period of the disease,” in that period a good part of the contacts could become ill and infect more people.

In other countries “they take samples from contacts to see if they are infected with Covid-19 or not,” he explained. However, the Nicaraguan health authorities hide the number of Covid-19 tests that have been carried out and have limited themselves to say what is in their statements that they have applied tests “to those who warrant it.”

The MINSA has also said that it is monitoring by phone the contacts who have not required hospitalization. “They make more recommendations on washing their hands, they call them by phone, they ask them if they have any symptoms, and that is it,” criticizes doctor Quant.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Central America the contacts of infected people “are recommended to stay at home, avoid any contact with other people, keep the social distance, wash their hands and a test is done of these people,” said the doctor.