Breaking News Today

The country telling its population to party as the rest of the world stays home

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

International health officials have warned that the Nicaraguan government’s refusal to take measures to control the spread of coronavirus is heightening the risk of an epidemic in Central America.

International health officials have warned that the Nicaraguan government's refusal to take measures to control the spread of coronavirus is heightening the risk of an epidemic in Central America.

President Daniel Ortega's government has urged Nicaraguans to party during Carnival celebrations, keep attending sports events and cultural festivals and pack the country's beaches during Holy Week vacations this week.

Doctors have been told not to alarm patients by wearing masks or using sanitizing gel.

Live updates on coronavirus HERE.

Before schools closed for an extended vacation Friday, principals had threatened to expel students who missed class, and last month a third baseman was banned from professional baseball for three years after he asked to stop playing over virus fears.

Ortega's administration has offered no detailed explanation for its refusal to take widely accepted measures.

The health minister has justified Government decisions, saying there is a dire need to support the economy, badly damaged by two years of anti-government protests.

Some analysts say Ortega and his circle may fear that anti-virus measures would weaken their hold on power.

In the meantime, Nicaraguans are doing what they can to voluntarily stay away from one another, but the Pan American Health Organization's director, Dr Carissa Etienne, warns that Nicaragua's lack of official measures is increasing the risk of an epidemic.

"We have concerns for the lack of social distancing, the convening of mass gatherings," Dr Etienne said.

"We have concerns about the testing, contact tracing, about the reporting of cases."

The president of neighbouring Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, has warned that an out-of-control epidemic in Nicaragua would have consequences for all of Central America.

READ:  Hundreds of elephants in Botswana may have died from toxic algae

In mid-March, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras closed their borders to foreigners and instituted social distancing measures.

There are also concerns about President Ortega's own health.

The 74-year-old has not appeared in public for three weeks.

Although he has been absent for long periods in the past only to reappear, his disappearance during a global pandemic is fuelling rumours he may be ill, or personally terrified of the coronavirus.

"The broader problem in Nicaragua is that you have a dictatorship that is unable to take the pandemic seriously," Manuel Orozco, a Nicaragua expert at the Inter-American Dialogue said.

"It's unable because they're distracted by the health itself of its president."

The country's economic crisis — and resulting lack of revenue — also means the state's ability to act is very limited, he said.

As a guerrilla commander, Ortega helped overthrow dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979 and was part of the Sandinista junta that took power and began to take Nicaragua down a path toward communism.

He was first elected president in 1984, then lost re-election in 1990, but he has held the presidency since 2006 and implemented increasingly autocratic rule.

His wife, Rosario Murillo, has served as the government's principal spokeswoman and, since 2016, as Nicaragua's vice president.

Ms Murillo said that the government is protecting the health of Nicaraguans, without providing details, and that South Korea had donated rapid-testing kits.

Ortega's violent crackdown on protests, which began in 2018, caused more than 328 deaths, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The political tension has had devastating effects on the country's economy, especially in what had been a burgeoning tourism sector.

READ:  WTO on the Qatar-Saudi Arabia case: Kingdom’s measures are within its rights

The government insists the country has only three confirmed cases of the virus, all imported, even as its borders remain open and infections steadily increase in neighbouring countries.

Costa Rica has more than 400 confirmed infections, Honduras has over 300 and El Salvador reports around 100.

Cuba's Health Ministry has said two people arrived sick from Nicaragua and a third person tested positive this week after returning from Nicaragua.

"Nothing indicates that the problem that Spain, Italy and the United States have won't repeat itself in Nicaragua, too," Epidemiologist Dr Leonel Argüello said.

While the virus initially emerged in China during the winter and there is some suggestion that it may not spread as easily when both the temperature and humidity increase.

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/coronavirus-spreads-through-nicaragua-as-government-thwarts-measures-to-contain-covid19/6ff92819-bf4d-4d12-a7ca-a1a45c75b1d2

Shares
Share This
Finance Advice 2021