The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) urged Nicaraguan authorities to allow, with protective measures, that the closest relatives of those deceased by Covid-19 can see their family members before they are buried and thus decrease the doubts they may have when receiving a sealed coffin, as is a custom in recent months.
“It is very important that families have access to their loved ones, particularly at that moment,” explained doctor Ciro Ugarte, PAHO Director of Emergencies.
“It is necessary for the authorities to take the maximum possible measures so that families could see their loved ones with adequate protection. Failure to do so raises doubts that remain forever,” the official insisted.
In Nicaragua, the Government has ordered quick and almost clandestine burials for those who died in the context of the pandemic, even though it does not admit deaths from Covid-19. In at least one case, relatives of a deceased man in a hospital have claimed not to recognize the identity of their relative.
Nicaragua continues without reporting
Last week, PAHO insisted that three months after the confirmation of the first positive case of Covid-19 in Nicaragua, the Government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo continues without reporting the number of tests it has carried out and processed from the laboratory of the Diagnostic and Reference Center (CNDR), located in the National Health Complex in Managua.
PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, Ciro Ugarte, stated on that occasion that although they have supported the training of the staff of the Nicaraguan CNDR laboratory, “no information has been received on the number of tests carried out and processed by the national laboratory. I am referring to the confirmed cases of Covid-19.”
Besides, he pointed out that the Nicaraguan authorities have also not provided the geographical report on the increase of cases in areas near the Costa Rican border, given the alert from that country, which has reported a “significant increase in cases.”
“What would be expected is an increase in cases in Nicaragua, in such a way that we are waiting for that information to be shared by Nicaragua with the geographical area where the cases have been reported, but so far we have not received that information,” Ugarte regretted.
Social inequality marks advance of the pandemic in the region
PAHO warned that the countries with most Covid-19 cases in Central America, such as Panama, are the ones that have carried out the tests and have a clearer idea of the magnitude of the pandemic, contrary to what happens in Nicaragua where “we still do not know the number of tests done,” explained Dr. Marcos Espinal, PAHO Director of Communicable Diseases.
Dr. Espinales said the “social inequities” in the region are a determining factor in the handling of the pandemic, since the countries with the greatest economic resources, such as Panama and Costa Rica, are those that have implemented prevention measures and, consequently, that could flatten the contagion curve. While poor countries, such as Nicaragua and Honduras, are obliged to “strengthen their measures” to slow down the rate of contagion.
“There are good practices in some countries, we see that Panama and El Salvador have testing programs for the population, which allows us to understand the magnitude of the problem,” said Espinal. The situation of Nicaragua is that “we still do not know the numbers of tests it does.” While Guatemala and Honduras “must accelerate the testing because that is what give us the magnitude of the problem and thus continue with the measures,” he stressed.
Every Tuesday, PAHO holds a virtual information session in which it reports on the progress of Covid-19 in the Americas region. This June 30th, the agency stated that countries planning to relax public health measures must adopt a phased approach based on local conditions and be prepared to reimpose preventive measures if the epidemiological situation changes.
PAHO’s director, Carissa F. Etienne, warned that reopening is not simply suspending travel restrictions, and mandatory preventive isolation, but rather requires the implementation of a series of public health measures that allow to trace new cases and develop enough capacity to detect and control new outbreaks.
“We must also be prepared to adjust the course quickly if the epidemiological situation changes. If you are willing to relax preventive measures, you must have the courage to withdraw if infections increase,” said Dr. Etienne.
This includes access to testing, in a timely manner, of suspected cases and their contacts. “We need testing, but we also need the results of those tests to be reported quickly in order to get an accurate picture of the situation,” she added.