Health organization urges Nicaragua to take action

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The Pan-American Health Organization is calling on Nicaragua’s government to urgently take steps to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in a country that so far has minimized its threat

The Pan-American Health Organization called on Nicaragua’s government Tuesday to urgently take steps to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in a country that so far has minimized its threat.

“The protection of life and health cannot wait,” said Ciro Ugarte, the regional organization’s director of health emergencies. “We call on all public and private entities in Nicaragua to implement immediately all of the recommendations.”

The administration of President Daniel Ortega has reported few deaths, but growing public clamor about infections and “express burials” have made the government’s assertions hard to believe. Unlike its neighbors, the country has not taken social distancing measures and has continued to promote mass gatherings. Schools have remained open and only recently was the baseball season temporarily suspended until June 5.

Last weekend, the government organized some 2,500 open air events in towns across the country.

Nicaragua’s Health Ministry said Tuesday the death toll had doubled to 35 since last week and the number of confirmed infections had grown to 759.

Health Minister Carlos Sáenz also reported other deaths of people that have been under monitoring, but did not say how many.

A parallel citizen effort to track infections and deaths called the Citizen Observatory has reported more than 2,300 infections and 465 deaths.

Ugarte said that for the first time the government last week provided information that allowed the organization to confirm there is local spread of the disease. He said they had offered the assistance of international experts, but so far Ortega’s government has refused.

“In this phase, to save lives and reduce the impact on society, it is essential to be transparent with the numbers, inform reliably about the situation and with total transparency,” Ugarte said. “It is necessary to reduce the local spread, protect health workers and also implement measures to allow essential services to the community.”


AP writer Gabriela Selser in Managua, Nicaragua contributed to this report.

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