In sixteen days, more than 9,000 Nicaraguans have spied on their neighbors, calling the 132 hotline authorized for consultations on covid-19, to report them on suspicion that they are carriers of the new coronavirus.
It is a practice of monitoring and accusing that has been endorsed by the Ministry of Health (Minsa), as part of its model of “health and community surveillance”, as confirmed to Confidencial by state workers at the call center.
The figure was also detailed in official media.
The Ortega regime activated that line, on March 30, so that Nicaraguans can call the National Information Center covid-19 for free. The number is manned by some 150 operators, divided into four six-hour shifts.
Humberto Román, general director of the National Communication System of the Minsa, reported that from March 30 to last Tuesday they had received 24,979 calls, of these 15,515 were to request information about the covid-19, and the remaining 9,464 were “reporting the entry of people into the country, by legal means or blind spots.”
On average 591 Nicaraguans have called a newspaper to accuse their neighbors, between March 30 and April 14, 2020, according to the official’s figures.
In an interview with the En Vivo morning program on official state television, Canal 4, Román defended that this practice is part of the community health network. “It is not that they are reporting, but that they are taking care of the health of their family and their community,” he added.
“We have also received calls from family members to say that their brothers have entered through blind spots,” he added.
He stressed that on many occasions they receive more calls from the departments than from Managua, mainly from border areas such as Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Chinandega and Rivas.
Románl explained that citizens only provide the address of their neighbors, and that this information is sent “to the corresponding Silais (Local System of Comprehensive Health Care) health director and they follow up on the case.”
However, an operator of line 132 told Confidencial that in the complaints, in addition to the address, they ask for the name of the alleged infected, the time they have in the country, from which country he returned, and if they have symptoms.
“We put all the information on a form and then we pass it on to some doctors who are there (in the central office),” stressed the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The director of Communication explained that, with the suspect’s data, a health team from the sector visits the home and does the “corresponding care”; the case is handled according to the characteristics “found”.
“Many times a Minsa medical team has already been to the homes. We prefer to sin in excess”, he mentioned.
Who is telling the right story?
Román affirmed that the telephone operators “are health personnel who are trained for this (pandemic).”
However, the operator contacted by Confidencial said she does not work at Minsa. She was selected along with eight other employees from her institution.
The official said that they keep operators in constant training on the state of the pandemic in the world and Nicaragua, although the operator commented that it was only trained at the beginning.
“In two days they trained us on what covid-19 is and how the system operates.” This call center works in the building of the Nicaraguan Instituto Nicaragüense de Telecomunicaciones y Correos (Telcor), the government regulator on telecommunications and the post office.