The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Tuesday that Nicaragua has breached its obligation to report cases and deaths from COVID-19, and argued that a proper response to the pandemic requires an understanding of the country’s situation.
The PAHO Director of Health Emergencies, Ciro Ugarte, said that the government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua promised “a week ago” to report on the impact of the new coronavirus in the country, as stipulated in the International Health Regulations (IHR) of which he is a signatory.
During a video conference with journalists, Ugarte noted that Nicaraguan authorities also said they would allow PAHO representatives to visit health centers and that they would provide “detailed information on the deceased and confirmed and suspected cases, including details of sex, age and location.”
“So far, none of these actions has materialized despite repeated requests from PAHO,” Ugarte said.
The official was responding to about a letter sent last Thursday to the director of the PAHO, Carissa Etienne, in which deputies from Costa Rica asked the organization to carry out an “external evaluation” on COVID-19 in Nicaragua.
In the letter, 52 of the 57 deputies of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly described as “reckless” the handling that the Ortega government has given to the pandemic — which include a lack of containment measures and calls for massive meetings — and warned that it could have negative effects beyond its borders.
Ugarte said that “taking into account unofficial reports on the increase in cases and deaths and pneumonia,” PAHO was continuing to reiterate its recommendations in writing and verbally to the Ortega government.
The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, which at the time of Ugarte’s statements recorded eight deaths and 25 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus, updated the figures Tuesday afternoon, reporting a sudden increase in deaths and infections.
Health Minister Martha Reyes said that there are 254 cases of COVID-19 in Nicaragua, 10 times more than those reported previously, and 17 deaths from COVID-19.
The balance of the ministry contrasts with that of civil organizations, which indicate more than a thousand infections and hundreds of deaths, with hospitals collapsed by patients with respiratory illnesses, which are officially attributed to diseases such as “atypical pneumonia.”
According to the NGO Citizen Observatory, through May 16 in Nicaragua there were 1,569 COVID-19 cases and 366 deaths.
On April 7, PAHO, the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO), considered the prevention and control of COVID-19 in Nicaragua “inadequate.”