“Everyone Knows Someone Sick or Dead from Covid-19 in Nicaragua”

Despite Nicaragua’s formal registry of minimal Covid-19 incidence, everyone in the country knows someone who is sick or dead from the virus. This was the observation of Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), Nicaragua’s main business association.

“Every one of us now knows someone who is sick or deceased. This is no longer a story being told to us, each one of us is living it, together with our neighbors, our acquaintances, people in the different camps of public opinion,” Aguerri said in a press conference with the local communications media.

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A parliament deputy, an alternate deputy, a pilot, an athletics trainer, and a stylist are among the better-known people that have died from confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 amid the pandemic. There’s a prevalent sensation that there are many more victims among the 6.3 million Nicaraguans.

The “express burials” – hearses that go directly from the hospital to the cemetery, accompanied by police and paramilitary who preside over hasty and stealthy burials, frequently at night – are ever more frequent, as are the expressions of condolence among Nicaraguans on their social media.

After three weeks of reporting only 25 cases and 8 deaths, yesterday the authorities from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health finally admitted to the existence of 254 patients in one week and elevated the death toll from the pandemic to 17. This statistic is still very distant from that registered by the private organization “Covid-19 Citizens’ Observatory” which, as of a few days ago, counted 1,594 presumptive cases and 351 deaths. The latter estimate enjoys greater credibility among scientists and doctors.
Covid-19 cases on the rise

Aguerri warned that if the official statistics don’t lie, in two weeks the number of contagions will double unless the government of President Daniel Ortega alters its current policies of no restrictions on the spread of Covid-19, with minimal preventive measures and the promotion of large crowd activities.

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“We in Cosep want to add our voice and support to the request made by the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization to be allowed to come to the country, conduct an on-site visit, and evaluate what’s happening with the pandemic,” Aguerri declared.

Since 2018, when the government expelled the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Ortega has consistently denied international organizations permission to enter Nicaragua, with the exception of a delegation from the European Parliament that visited in January 2019.

“We mustn’t close the doors to the organizations that can save lives, that have the capacity to help make requests, so that this precarious health system could have better equipment, so that we could have more tests kits that are so necessary to avoid having people continue becoming infected,” emphasized the Cosep representative.

Aguerri recalled that the pandemic has been slowed a little through the personal initiative of Nicaraguans and the efforts of the business sector that has taken measures to protect their employees, clients and installations. He highlighted, however, that these same people can’t face up to the epidemic without public health actions and transparency from the government, nor without international aid.

Source: Confidencial

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Migrants Tell Their Stories: Returning to Nicaragua Amid Covid-19

(TODAY NICARAGUA) Reaching the United States from Managua took her six hours in an airplane. One year later, when a strange new virus put the world in check, she decided to return to Nicaragua to be with her family.  That trip took her 32 days, travelling over 3,290 miles of highway plus eleven days stranded at the border.

This was the journey undertaken by Nicaraguan athlete Sayra Laguna. The story of her return to Nicaragua isn’t unique. Since COVID-19 began spreading, nearly all of the countries of the world opted to keep their residents at home, and to close their borders. At the same time, hundreds of citizens caught outside their own country weighed the prospect of returning to their families. Some because they lost their jobs, and others for fear of being far from those they love in this time of calamity.

In July alone, some 1,300 Nicaraguans arrived back in the country from Panama, Guatemala, Spain and Barbados. Some returned in caravans and others on humanitarian flights, according to the reports from the Interior Ministry and the media.

In order to return, the migrants had to overcome fears of being infected with the virus during the trip, or of being assaulted by gangs, especially in the Northern Triangle of Central America. In addition, they had to put up with great adversity – suffering sun, rain and rejection – for a number of days on the border, in the face of the Nicaraguan authorities’ refusal to let them enter the country unless they could show a negative test for COVID-19.  This measure was decreed when many had already begun the journey back home.

The latest migrants to arrive, a group of 148 Nicaraguans, finally entered on August 3rd. They had resisted infrahuman conditions for nearly two weeks at the Penas Blancas post, on the border with Costa Rica.  The group were eventually able to demonstrate their disease-free status and finally return home, thanks to COVID-19 tests donated and carried out by an NGO.  Daniel Ortega’s government never indicated how they could get tested, since the Nicaraguan government has all the tests centralized in Managua, and don’t ever disclose the number realized nor the results.

“It was torture being there”

At approximately four pm on Friday, July 24, Lucia [not her real name] arrived at the Penas Blancas border post, together with her husband and son. They were carrying only a few suitcases, since they had sent all their belongings on to Nicaragua weeks before.  They had initially planned to leave once they received the results of the COVID-19 tests they had taken in San Jose, Costa Rica, but everything changed when they were evicted from the place they were living.  On that Friday, they grabbed their bags and left, thinking that the digital results would be enough to be allowed in. However, when they reached the border, the immigration authorities told them they couldn’t continue, because they needed to show a hard copy of their results. That’s when their torturous ordeal began.

“At that moment, my world crumbled around me. I didn’t want to stay at the border, because I’m a diabetic and I was fearful of getting infected with the virus. I was worried about my fourteen-year-old son; I didn’t know if he would to be able to stand it,” Lucia told us. Now in Nicaragua, she asked to use an assumed name to avoid reprisals.

Despite their fears, the family decided to wait at the border, together with some 500 other migrants. The group was confined to the sides of the highway, and there they awaited some indication of a humane impulse on the part of the Nicaraguan authorities. That never occurred. Instead, for the next eleven days, “Lucia” and her family were the recipients of insults, rejection and threats.

“We were even afraid to speak to the media. We were threatened by those in the riot squad. I cried every night. A lot of people would flee after midnight, and we’d hear shots, we’d hear dogs barking, people yelling. It was torture,” she recalls.

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