Nicaraguan Government Rules Out Any Quarantines or Social Distancing

All Covid-19 tests are being centralized at the Conchita Palacios center in Managua. Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

“They are different epidemiological situations,” says Dr. Kenia Grillo; “there is no point in calling for isolation,” assures Dr. Jorge Romero.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The director of the Gaspar Garcia Laviana Hospital, in Rivas, Jorge Romero, rules out that the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and the Government of Daniel Ortega will decree social distancing measures or quarantine in Nicaragua. This despite tens of thousands of people having begun a voluntary quarantine, after the regime confirmed two Covid-19 positive cases and at least twelve suspected ones.

“At this time, there is no point in alarming the population to lock themselves up, because you can prolong the phase of infection. Doing so would be alarming and extreme,” indicated the doctor in an interview on Channel 10 TV.

Romero was accompanied by Kenia Grillo, anesthesiologist and director of the Manolo Morales Hospital, in Managua, who as her colleague, acted as spokespersons for MINSA in the interview with this television outlet.

On the social distancing that other governments are decreeing, Grillo expressed that these measures are dependent on how the disease is affecting those countries, besides being “different epidemiological” situations.

Even though in most European countries a system of public health with universal care prevails, Grillo argued that Europeans must pay for health care. “We cannot be compared with Europe, because our health system is free, and in Europe health systems are private, you have to pay. That is a strength of our system, because care is free. Our community-family health model is the strength in all this vigilance,” said Grillo.

Romero said that the Government “has been responsible” in not decreeing any measure of social distancing, since the two positive cases in the country are “imported” and there is no community contagion. “There is no point in calling for isolation,” insisted the doctor.

So far Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the world that has refused to establish a quarantine and social distancing measures. On the contrary, the government has organized rallies, fairs and events, and also directed MINSA staff, and other state workers to carry out thousands of house-to-house visits to the population to suggest measures to “prevent” the Covid-19 infection. [The visits were rejected by many citizens considering them a possible source of infection.]

Masks are a “taboo subject”

The MINSA spokespersons assured that the use of masks by health personnel isn’t necessary unless they are in front of a patient who has Covid-19. The director of the Manolo Morales (Hospital) expressed that “we should not cause alarms with the use of masks.”

Doctor Romero said that the masks are intended for sick people and to block the release of droplets of saliva. “We guarantee the handling of information officially, there is a lot of sensational and alarming news on social networks that doesn’t contribute to anything,” he argued.

Grillo stated that being in a phase in which there are only two positive cases and there is no evidence of a “community transmission,” the use of masks is not necessary.

“The mask becomes a taboo subject. If I am in an operating room, I must wear a mask because the regulations of the area require it. Our mask has instructions. We cannot be generating fear and panic to the people. It is not good for the mental health of the population,” she recommended.

Although Grillo said that panic should not be created among the population, this Wednesday the Police special operations agents carried out surveillance in the capital with masks on.

The journalist asked the doctor five times if the officers were making inappropriate use of the masks, and although she tried to evade providing an answer, she finally replied: “Those who are in attending the sick should use them. The comrades (police) should not wear masks if they are not in contact with other personnel who are ill. We should not cause alarm with the use of masks,” Grillo insisted.

The doctors were also consulted about the alleged positive case of Covid-19 in Esteli, which was published by La Prensa newspaper. Grillo replied that any type information circulates on (social) networks and since there are 19 hospitals, which are the centers where suspected cases are under observation, “any false information can come out of those places.”

MINSA says it has capacity to carry out Covid-19 tests

Regarding the request made by private medical centers to the Government to authorize them to carry out Covid-19 tests to detect cases on time and prevent the virus from spreading, Grillo stated that it isn’t necessary, because the MINSA has the capacity to handle the situation.

“In the phase we are in, the national diagnostic center is capable of carrying out the necessary tests at the national level. In this type of pandemic, which has a global context, MINSA has the ability to manage it, not only its forms of prevention, but also to carry out diagnostic tests,” Grillo affirmed.

At this point in the interview, Romero said that the MINSA has approached private hospitals and has given them all the support, including informing them that, if they don’t feel capable of attending to suspected cases, the Ministry would take charge of doing the tests. Something contrary to what private health facilities have expressed, who showed their desire to carry out the tests.

“I ignore if they have been denied. I believe that in this aspect, you need to have 3,000 dollars to be eligible for the test in countries such as the United States. Here the population can have it for free, in the local hospital, I don’t see much logic for private centers to do it,” said Romero.

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