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.
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.
“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.