At least 309 deaths from pneumonia, 87 more than the last year have been reported since January in Nicaragua, the Central American country, but very few were linked with coronavirus, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said in a press briefing. Nicaraguan authorities recorded as low as 8 deaths from COVID-19 disease and only 25 total cases. This has cast doubts on the tally noting that hospital wards have been running on full capacity with patients complaining of respiratory distress, President Ortega said.
Not publicly revealing the number of tests per 100,000 conducted so far, Ortega said that the health authorities fear that many pneumonia deaths could be tied to the coronavirus. Further, he added, while some fatalities could be due to pneumonia as well, but mostly the rising death toll has links with the pandemic, he said in his public address on the national television.
At least 309 people have died from pneumonia this year through May 15, compared to only 222 people in the same period last year, he was quoted saying. As many as 215 people died from pneumonia, the same time frame in 2018, and 289 the year before that. The pneumonia death toll was similarly high in 2016, as 329 people succumbed to the ailment, he added. However, the flow of patients spiked this year, he said, not delving into the details why that was.
According to local media reports, medics in Nicaraguan and in South Florida have criticized Ortega’s authoritarian regime saying that the remarkably low COVID-19 figures reported are a “lie”. More than a thousand probable COVID-19 infections and almost 200 fatalities were registered by the Nicaragua Citizens COVID-19 Observatory. One of the medics in the COVID-19 ward who has been exiled in Miami, reportedly said, on condition of anonymity, that Nicaraguan officials forced doctors to designate COVID-19 cases as pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses. Those who resigned in protest, he added, got their medical licenses revoked.
In a country of 6.5 million people, businesses, public premises, and government offices remained open as several sporting events and other mass gatherings took place, as usual, local media reported. Several journalists outside a hospital in Managua and in a cemetery in Chinandega were detained by the police force for reporting the scenario in the past week, but the pandemic was becoming difficult to hide with the sudden surge in cases.
(Image Credit: AP)