After a 34-day absence, President Daniel Ortega reappeared in a televised broadcast in the late afternoon of April 15. The president boasted that Nicaragua has the lowest number of coronavirus cases in the Central American region and justified the lack of social distancing measures that, he said, would affect the economy of the country, thus ruling out a national emergency decree or total quarantine.
“In an orderly manner, we have adopted measures guided by international standards, but applying them according to our reality, and our material and economic possibilities,” said Ortega.
The first case of covid-19 in Nicaragua was confirmed by the Government on March 18. At four weeks, the official statistics report nine positive cases, the majority, they say, discharged, in addition to one deceased.
The Ortega Government continues without adopting the international recommendations for social distancing to prevent contagion, while promoting massive activities. Instead, Ortega justified the deployment of thousands of health brigades for door-to-door visits throughout the country at a time when leaders around the world have applied strong measures of social distancing to mitigate the advance of the pandemic.
According to government figures, more than 2.6 million Nicaraguans have been visited “house-to-house” by Health workers. Ortega said that these “brigadistas” were mobilized “to explain (to Nicaraguans about the pandemic), hand them a brochure and explain to the family how to protect themselves.”
“That explains why the pandemic has progressed slowly,” he alleged. Minutes later, Murillo raised to 37 the “suspected cases” of covid-19, which until the day before were supposedly 12. The Government, however, does not specify the treatment it gives to these cases, nor does it provide details beyond saying having them in “caring follow-up”.
What Daniel Ortega did not mention
True to his regime’s policy of secrecy, Ortega also did not provide any data on testing or the health system’s ability to deal with covid-19.
“They have all the basic resources, to attend where logically needed, including the capacity in terms of beds that these hospitals have. There are enough vents (sic.), It has not been necessary to use all the vents,” he said. Beside him, Murillo corrected him: “respirators.” Ortega only managed to repeat: “Not all have been used,” without revealing the number.
Independent doctors have told Confidencial that in the country there are around 160 ventilators or respirators, but 80% would be in use for patients with other pathologies.
Ortega is used to being absent for long periods, but this time he broke his own record amid the coronavirus pandemic that has forced leaders around the world to lead unprecedented efforts and actions to combat it.
In Nicaragua, President Ortega had not addressed the nation since the health emergency began. However, his wife/VP, Rosario Murillo, also hunkered down for over a month, gives a daily speech by telephone to the government and family TV, radio and online media.
Ortega’s absence captured the attention of the international press. The Washington Post recently listed him in an editorial as one of the four presidents in the world who have handled the coronavirus crisis by minimizing it.