Above photo: 250,000 health brigade members have made millions of house-to-house visits to report the pandemic. This is just one of the many actions taken by the Sandinista government to confront Covid-19.
NOTE: Nan McCurdy reports on the Alliance for Global Justice’s Nica Notes on a personal visit to Nicaragua that shows the seriousness the country takes on dealing with the virus:
On March 31 my husband and I traveled from Mexico City to Managua. In the Nicaragua airport all passengers were tested for temperature – this is a measure taken by the Sandinista government since another epidemic in 2009. These checks are also done at all the border crossings. Trained Health Ministry staff met for more than ten minutes with each passenger asking about any symptoms, if you have been near anyone with Covid-19, etc. Our address and phone number in Nicaragua were requested multiple times. They explained to us the importance of maintaining a fourteen-day quarantine at home, and that others with you should do the same. They emphasized we should leave everything including our clothes outside the home for three days in the sun. Since then an epidemiologist has called every other day. This is a great example of how Nicaragua keeps the virus from entering the population.<span
“The emphasis of the free public health system is community-based prevention; instead of waiting until people are sick, it works to prevent illness and to prevent the spread of illness. For example, Nicaragua has nearly 100% vaccination rates for children 0 to 6, and pregnant mothers, and does educational campaigns for prevention like the current one where health staff and trained volunteer health workers visited more than two million three hundred thousand families to educate for prevention of Covid-19.” – KZ
One of the best-hidden secrets behind the cacophony of panic and media terrorism caused by the current Covid-2019 pandemic has been the way as successful as Nicaragua, a small and poor country in one of the regions most exposed to climate change in the planet has been stopping the arrival of the new coronavirus.
With 6.5 million inhabitants, Nicaragua had until April 5 only 6 cases of Covid-19 (all imported), of which 3 were active, 2 were recovered and one, sick with AIDS, had died. At the same time, it kept close surveillance on about 10 people who, despite having failed the tests, are still being monitored as a precaution.
In comparison, in the Central American region, until that day there were 4,598 confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 4,360 were active, 167 died and 71 recovered. In Central America, only Belize, with less than 400,000 inhabitants, has fewer confirmed cases than Nicaragua, with 5, all active.
As for cases per million inhabitants, Nicaragua has the lowest number in the entire region, with 0.93 cases. Guatemala follows, with 4.22 cases; El Salvador, with 9.56 cases; Belize, with 12.24 cases; Honduras with 32.54 cases; Costa Rica, with 89.76 cases and Panama, with 471.22 cases per million.
Note that in the two countries with which Nicaragua has extensive and porous borders (Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south) they have much higher levels of infection.
Likewise, in two countries characterized by the application of draconian measures of seclusion and curfew to face the pandemic (El Salvador and Honduras), the infection rates per million inhabitants are also much higher than in Nicaragua.
Sectors linked to the coup opposition in the country allege that the government’s figures are false and that, in reality, it is doing nothing to combat the pandemic. They say there are so few confirmed cases because massive Covid-19 tests have not been applied to the population.
Those arguments are only viable for consumption abroad and for certain groups quite alienated within the country to live in an illusion, because for any normal person living in Nicaragua, the situation is obviously not like that.
Clearly, no health center in Nicaragua is crowded with people with respiratory symptoms. According to statements by the director general of the Ministry of Health, cases of pneumonia in this month of April, which generally have a rebound in the country, show lower levels than the previous year. Last year, about 1 million influenza vaccines (B, H1N1, and H3N2) were applied to the population, while the pneumococcal vaccine was applied to older adults and people with chronic diseases.
On the other hand, where are the protests in the streets against the supposed lack of action by the government in the face of the pandemic? Nowhere, only in cyberspace, in the feverish minds of elements based in Miami and some countries of the European Union.
The Sandinista government’s response to the Covid-19 emergency is based on a series of pillars:
First, the development of a Social Rule of Law that puts the population’s social and economic rights, especially health, education and the right to food, at the center.
In Nicaragua, contrary to the propaganda of the Western media, there is no antagonistic relationship between the State and the population, which in the vast majority (even among broad sectors of the opposition minority) trusts that the police and health authorities are seeking the public good.
Second, in the broadest possible development of public health. It should not be a secret to anyone that Public Health in Nicaragua was born with the overthrow of the Somocista dictatorship in 1979 and the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution.
Before July 19, 1979, the poorer popular sectors were forced to sell their blood to the Plasmaféresis company in order to survive, while endemic diseases were widespread in a country where more than half of the population could not read. nor write.
With the first stage of the Sandinista Revolution in the 80s of the last century came massive vaccination, prevention and hygiene campaigns, as well as training of health personnel and development of health infrastructure, all in between and despite a bloody terrorist war promoted by the United States.
This was so because this policy was a fundamental part of the historic program of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, formulated many years before the 1979 victory.
Despite the neoliberal counter-reform of the period 1990-2007, in which it was tried to totally privatize health, all that human infrastructure formed during the decade of the 80s in the values of health as a basic and inalienable right, resisted and When the Sandinista Front returned to power, it was in a position to implement the successful community health model that today tests the Covid-19 emergency.
During the last 13 years, the Sandinista government has built 18 hospitals: 15 primary, 1 departmental and 2 national, all of them operating free of charge. In the medium term, there is a projection to build 15 more hospitals, six of which are already under construction, including two large ones: the one in León and the one in Nueva Segovia.
In addition to this, the number of health posts that have been built and refurbished throughout the country, as well as maternity homes, are innumerable. Also, and last but not least, there is a massive program that actively visits communities every week to provide free information and medical care to the population that for various reasons cannot go to a health center.
To all this must be added the recent inauguration of a modern molecular biology laboratory capable of analyzing tests for various diseases, including Covid-19. This laboratory is the second most advanced in the region.
Furthermore, since late 2018, Nicaragua has a drug plant with the capacity to produce 12 million vaccines against influenza a year and in which the Cuban drug Interferon Alfa-2B is successfully produced to treat patients with Covid-19.
Along with the development of this material base, the Sandinista health model (Family and Community Health Model, conceptually formulated as early as 2008) has a broad social infrastructure in the form of sectoral, municipal, departmental and national networks that articulate resources, community and private health services that for years have been promoting all kinds of health days, especially to prevent diseases such as dengue, zika and chikungunya, in addition to all other health tasks.
Several months before the alert by Covid-19, the government, in July of last year, it had already declared an epidemiological alert to combat the aforementioned diseases. In fact, for many years Nicaragua, due to its very conditions, has lived in a permanent situation of epidemiological alert that the authorities are facing together with the communities, which has given the country better levels of health at the population level and Extensive experience with these types of threats.
Due to its very characteristics, Nicaragua is obliged to have an alert system against all kinds of threats that include epidemiological, climatic (for example, hurricanes), tectonic (seismological and volcanic) situations and for many years it has carried out gigantic civil defense exercises that They involve millions of citizens.
It is false that the government does not report on the progress of the pandemic in the country, as can be seen on the website of the Ministry of Health, in addition to the daily press conferences offered by its representatives and the abundant information that is in the media. Just as in Nicaragua there is an unrestricted freedom of disinformation, since not a single medium of the pro-coup right-wing has been closed, there is also information through the means of the Citizen Power.
Since the end of February, the government of Nicaragua announced the policy to be followed against the coronavirus:
- Nicaragua has not established, nor will it establish, any type of quarantine.
- People who have symptoms of Covid-19 and also have some link with someone with the proven disease, will be admitted to a health unit for study and follow-up.
- Those who, in addition to the above, test positive for a Covid-19 test will be admitted to one of the centers for the treatment of patients with the disease.
- People who enter from risky countries (as established by the WHO) will not be restricted in their movement in the country, but they will be alerted about the precautionary measures to be taken and will be asked for a contact number and address to follow up both by phone and through visits.
On January 21, the day after the Chinese authorities reported a third death from Covid-2019 and two hundred infected outside of Hubei province, as well as dozens of infected in other Asian countries, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, along with PAHO announced the epidemiological alert.
Ten days later, the Inter-institutional Commission in charge of dealing with the emergency had prepared a detailed protocol, based on its own and WHO’s experiences, which covers all aspects of the strategy to deal with the pandemic, which is updated month by month as knowledge about the new coronavirus and Covid-19 progresses.
The protocol contains detailed measures on epidemiological surveillance, laboratory procedures and sampling, organization of the Health services, inter-institutional organization, communication plans, etc.
During the first weeks, all health personnel were trained and all the necessary medical infrastructure was prepared to cope with the pandemic, which included the opening on March 3 of the aforementioned molecular biology laboratory that allows testing of the new coronavirus.
Already on March 12, the presidents of Central America (except Bukele from El Salvador) participated in a virtual conference to coordinate actions in the face of the pandemic. In addition, the Nicaraguan government held two meetings with its border neighbors (Costa Rica and Nicaragua) to coordinate efforts in the face of the pandemic. Certainly, on the part of Nicaragua, there have been no strident and conflicting attitudes, but rather total collaboration in the common effort to confront the pandemic.
A country like Nicaragua, dependent on foreign trade and income from work, without large natural sources of income in the form of hydrocarbons or other energy resources, cannot afford to “close” the economy lightly, much less in a situation like the one at the time, in which no imported cases of Covid-19 had even been presented.
In Nicaragua, most families live on self-employment and depend on having an income every day. The case is similar in Honduras and El Salvador, where the draconian quarantine measures implemented have led to strong popular protests and interruptions to the quarantine decreed by those governments. In El Salvador, the disorder in the delivery of aid of $ 300 sparked protests and looting, and in Honduras, the failure to deliver food to the population forced people to go out and ask the streets.
Similar to the successful Swedish strategy to tackle the pandemic, Nicaragua bases its strategy on confidence in the population’s ability to take preventive measures while avoiding as much as possible to restrict economic activity.
In addition, Nicaragua combines this public health education work with a detection system for possible Covid-19 cases that ranges from customs and airports to working with border populations (both to the north with Honduras and to the south with Costa Rica), with the activities of health centers and posts throughout the country as well as civil society structures in all neighborhoods and counties.
Nicaragua is a small country, it is very difficult to hide a situation of the severity of a Covid-19 infection. Health authorities to date have been able to track down any suspected cases, not to restrict the freedom of the affected person, but to follow up and help.
An action that was very manipulated by the western press, and by the coup media within Nicaragua, was the walk “ Love in times of Covid-19 ” carried out on Saturday, March 15. This action was interpreted tendentiously as a sign of contempt for public health and for the protection measures against the coronavirus, when in reality the Citizen Power media had been covering the issue of Covid-19 for months.
The message transmitted by thousands of Sandinistas and people who support the Sandinista government who marched to the population that Saturday was that you should not lose your head and “close” the country, that you had to continue working but taking the precautionary measures that since weeks ago they were recommending themselves in the media.
It was not until March 18, with the report of the first coronavirus case from a citizen who had been in Panama, that Nicaragua left the initial phase of preparation to enter the phase of imported cases, which is currently. Since then, five more cases have been reported, of which two have recovered, one has died and another three are under treatment.
On March 19, with Nicaragua already entering phase two of confronting the pandemic, Vice President Rosario Murillo reported on the training of 250,000 health brigade members who would visit more than one million homes across the country. At this stageNicaraguan homes have been visited more than once to follow up on the situation of Covid-19 in the country.
It should be noted that all this work is not really limited to informing the population and preparing the health system about Covid-19. The regular programs of the health system continue, as well as the days of free operations for the population, etc., while the Covid-19 prevention campaign is also carried out in conjunction with the prevention of influenza, the Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and other diseases that plague the population.
Currently, the Nicaraguan people are enjoying the tranquility and responsibility of the Easter holidays. Many people have stayed in their neighborhoods with their families, which can be seen when they take to the streets, which in many cases have become a space for socialization for the residents. However, many others have preferred to go to the different spas in the country, or even in religious activities, also avoiding crowds and observing hygiene rules.
For Easter, the state employees have received a holiday from Saturday, April 4 to Wednesday, April 15 or 17 (depending on the activity), and students until April 20, in a kind of mild quarantine for the entire sector, which It also serves to care for people in risk groups by the Covid-19 without recharging family members who are self-employed.
The future development of the pandemic in Nicaragua is not yet known. It could be, as indicated by certain American researchers, that the higher levels of vaccination of the population with BCG against tuberculosis with respect to both those of the Euro-American and Latin American and Central American countries, translates into a lower impact of Covid-19 in Nicaragua. If so, this would become a tribute to the massive vaccination campaigns that Sandinismo has promoted in the last 40 years.
Another element to take into account to explain the lower incidence that this pandemic has had so far in Nicaragua is the decline in Euro-American tourism as a result of the defeated coup attempt in April 2018. In any case, there are a number of factors at stake In this sense, above all the attentive and operational activity without falling into hysterics that the Sandinista government has shown to face this emergency.
One thing is certain, however: If the Sandinista government had acted before Covid-19 like its neighbors in Honduras and El Salvador, the economic losses would have been major even long before entering the most critical stage of the pandemic in our region. . Recall that the levels of contagion per million inhabitants in Central America are still much lower than in Europe or the United States-Canada. At the end of Easter, both neighboring countries will have suffered enormous losses, assumed unbearable debts and irrecoverable damages in their relationship with the population.
Meanwhile, Nicaragua continues to wait for the pandemic without community contagion (so far), with all the forces of its health system intact, with valuable experience accumulated in the treatment of the few cases that have arisen and with a strengthened relationship with the civil population.
The Sandinista Front, and especially the leadership of Commander Daniel Ortega together with fellow Vice President Rosario Murillo, is an expert in the art of mass political maneuver, that is, in rapid and operational political maneuvering with broad organized and disciplined popular masses.
Examples of this are multiple, for example: The organization in a few months of the award-winning National Literacy Crusade in 1979-80; the organization of the Patriotic Military Service in the 1980s; the change of the entire national currency in less than 24 hours in 1988 (which deprived the Contra of billions of córdobas that had fled to Honduras) and the defeat of the “soft coup” of 2018, when many people outside Nicaragua believed that the Sandinista Front was defeated.
To the changing scenarios of Covid-19, the Sandinista government will respond flexibly but decisively, prioritizing the most vulnerable sectors and affecting the popular economy as little as possible, aware that more than a disease to be defeated, the Covid -19 is a challenge to the ability of society as a whole to function, more a virus of society than a virus of the individual.