Today Nicaragua, Managua. Inhabitants and doctors of Nicaragua fear that the country is on the verge of chaos due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, due to the lack of measures to contain it and official secrecy regarding infections in the country.
“We are entering a phase of rapid community spread of the virus. As the exponential curve continues to increase and produce more affected, a chaotic situation is going to get”, warned epidemiologist Dr. Álvaro Ramírez.
The health emergency worries Nicaraguans, amid complaints from hospitals collapsed by patients with respiratory illnesses and killed by “atypical pneumonia“, according to records, who are buried in sealed boxes, in “express burials”, without funerals or mass funerals.
This situation has become especially evident in the city of Chinandega (northwest), considered the epicenter of contagion.
Unofficially, it is estimated that the country has between 5,000 and 6,000 hospital beds and 160 ventilators. There is no official data.
Police and other non-uniformed security keep guard around hospitals and cemeteries to ward off journalists trying to take photos, videos, or speak to relatives of patients.
Like many others isolated from their loved ones interned, the relatives of the popular former softball player Alberto Paraíso Mendoza, were prevented from accompanying him in the 11 days he spent hospitalized until his death in a Chinandega hospital.
74-year-old Mendoza was admitted on May 2 with “fever, cough and dirty lungs,” said his wife, Consuelo Mendoza.
That was the last day she saw her spouse. After his death, she had three hours to prepare the funeral and only one daughter was able to attend, she said.
The death certificate says Mendoza died of “respiratory failure and atypical pneumonia,” but his family suspects that he was killed by the coronavirus.
There is community transmission
The president of the Nicaraguan Medical Association, Gretel Solís, assured that the country is in an instance of “community transmission” of covid-19; that is, it spreads among the population locally.
The Despacho 505 a civil society initiative, counted up May 13, 266 deaths and 1,270 suspected cases of coronavirus.
Officially, the Ministry of Health recognizes only 8 deaths and 25 infections.
The National Coalition (Coalición Nacional), which groups several opposition organizations, issued a statement denouncing the handling of information by the Daniel Ortega administration: “The families of those killed by covid-19 face a government that is lying to them, delivers them notices of death that do not correspond to the diagnostic truth ”.
According to this group, “the mourners need to follow trucks with the coffin to know where they are going to bury their loved ones”, and “they are threatened by police or paramilitaries so that they do not tell the truth about the causes of death” .
The alarm has been triggered by the dissemination of videos in the media and social networks of “men in white”, as the population calls the health personnel who guard the coffins for the so-called “express burials”, generally carried out at night.
Vice President Rosario Murillo believes that there is an opposition campaign to put the population against the government.
Murillo, who is also the wife of Daniel Ortega, also accuses the independent media and social networks of “creating false realities”, and that they use videos from other countries to “make believe that they are from Nicaragua”, alluding to the express burials.
This week, also the head of US diplomacy for Latin America, Michael Kozak, said that there are several credible reports that the advance of the coronavirus in Nicaragua is much greater than the government’s figures, and asked Ortega to “be honest.”
According to the pulmonologist Dr. Carlos Quant, many doctors “are working blindly” without precise diagnoses due to the lack of evidence, and “obviously they cannot give patients the treatments that exist.”
“Many patients are coming to hospitals with suggestive data on covid-19, both clinically and radiologically, but the tests are not available (…) so many of these cases end up with a diagnosis of atypical pneumonia,” said Quant, who works in a private medical center.
Only the health ministry has powers to test covid-19. Private hospitals, clinics, etc are not authorized to acquire the test, Quant added.
Another doctor, who preferred anonymity, regretted that, in addition to the threat of layoffs or losing their title, health professionals face the fear of catching the virus and affecting their loved ones.
The Nicaraguan Medical Association records at least 74 infections among doctors, nurses and support staff in hospitals.