PAHO “Concerned” about the Nicaraguan Government’s Response to Covid-19

Pan American Health Organization director in Washington, Carissa Etienne. “PAHO has been concerned about the response to Covid-19 in Nicaragua.”  Photo: screenshot

PAHO Director: we are concerned about “testing, tracing of contacts, mass gatherings and lack of social distancing,” and have already informed the Ortega Government.

By Ivette Mungia  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Twenty days after the confirmation of the first positive case of Covid-19 in Nicaragua, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) publicly expressed this Tuesday its concern over the response of the Government of Daniel Ortega to the pandemic, in response to a Confidencial query during a video conference.

According to PAHO Director Carissa Etienne, this concern has already been informed “formally and informally” to local authorities, but they have not been listened to.

“We have concerns regarding the lack of social distancing, mass gatherings, we also have concerns about the testing, tracing contacts, the reporting of cases; for what we see as inadequate infection prevention and control,” Etienne emphasized during the virtual press conference.

The official, responding to one of the questions that Confidencial sent during a first video conference, last week, assured that “on several occasions and at various levels, formally and informally, we have expressed those concerns to the national authorities in Nicaragua.” But she clarified that Nicaragua “is a sovereign country and the Government makes decisions for its people.”

Etienne also stated that PAHO continues to work with Nicaraguan authorities to ensure that they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, “in a way that saves lives and prevent much disease.”


Nicaragua’s response to Covid-19

The director of PAHO has been criticized for what is seen as a political alignment to the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, who weeks ago still maintained that PAHO had “congratulated” them on their “community health” model.

This Tuesday, however, Murillo avoided referring to PAHO’s concern and reiterated that in Nicaragua “there is no local transmission” of the coronavirus. Until April 7, the country accumulated six confirmed cases of Covid-19, one already deceased and two have already been discharged, according to Murillo.

Oswaldo Leon-Fariello, a former PAHO official, denounced in an interview on the program “Esta Semana” that Etienne’s attitude towards the Ortega regime contradicts the WHO’s guidelines regarding Covid-19. “A technical agency should not politicize health,” he claimed.

In the videoconference this Tuesday, the director of PAHO said: “I want to assure everyone that when it comes to Covid-19, PAHO has given the same guidelines to all member states, including Nicaragua. We have also supported all members states, including Nicaragua, in terms of PPE (rational use of personal protective equipment), diagnostic kits and also technical support and guidelines.”

She added that they also continue offering “technical support and advice to the Government and national authorities.”

The Ortega and Murillo regime have maintained their policy of secrecy in regard to the pandemic; without revealing, among other data, details about the infections, the number of tests carried out and treatments for the patients. Furthermore, it continues without decreeing quarantine, closing the borders or directing social distancing. On the contrary, it promotes agglomerations and “normality” with programs and activities of the summer season. At the same time, health workers claim the lack of basic protection measures in hospitals, such as masks, gel alcohol or gloves, under the pretext of “not alarming” the population.

“The Government makes decisions for its people and decides what and how its response will be structured. I just want to say that PAHO remains ready to work with the authorities in Nicaragua, to ensure that they are indeed responding to Covid-19 in a way that saves lives and prevents too much disease,” said Etienne.

Nicaragua without quarantine and in “community surveillance”

On March 26, the director of the Gaspar Garcia Laviana Hospital, in Rivas, Jorge Romero, ruled out that the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and the Government of Daniel Ortega will decree social distancing measures or quarantine in Nicaragua, despite the fact that tens of thousands of people have started a voluntary quarantine, after the regime confirmed two positive cases of Covid-19 and at least twelve suspects. “At this time, there is no point in alarming the population to lock themselves up, because you can prolong the stage of infection. It is alarming and extreme,” said the doctor in an interview on Channel 10.

Meanwhile, the “community health” model promoted by the regime is a carte blanche to spy on and snitch on neighbors, because MINSA investigates citizens’ complaints of suspected cases of Covid-19, which are received from voluntary brigade members (usually government supporters) or in health units, as Confidencial has verified.

Sandinista legislator Gustavo Porras, President of the National Assembly, member of the Federation of Health Workers (FETSALUD), assured, in a session on Thursday, April 2, that the citizen’s complaints are part of the family and community health model, which has been implemented by the Government, through the more than 40,000 MINSA workers and thousands of volunteer brigade members.

“They tell the group of community brigade members, that in a house there is someone that came from Costa Rica, and I saw that he was coughing,” said Porras, to demonstrate the “closeness” and effectiveness of the health model.

This model is made up of departmental health units, known as SILAIS, and at the community level. In addition, that the municipalities were divided by sectors, which “cover a geographic area, where there is an average of 3,000 inhabitants, about 500 families,” according to Porras. Each sector has a medical team that cares for those 500 families on a routine basis.”

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