Rosario Murillo Confirms First COVID-19 Case in Nicaragua

Vice-president Rosario Murillo confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Nicaragua. It is a 40-year-old Nicaraguan male, who flew in from Panama City on March 15.

“It is not a homegrown case. It is a case that began in a foreign country […]. He contracted it abroad, came back to Nicaragua, presented symptoms, and is being cared for,” said Murillo.

The Ortega-Murillo government  COVID-19 prevention strategy has not included quarantines, border closures, or any kind of social distancing measures. Murillo did not give any indication that the strategy would change, aside from announcing twice-daily briefings by the Ministry of Health (MINSA, by its Spanish acronym).

Nicaragua’s first COVID case presented symptoms on March 17, two days after coming into the country. According to Murillo, he sought medical attention at an unidentified hospital, where he was diagnosed. He is now in isolation.

The patient is stable and breathing on his own. “He hasn’t required, and we pray to god that he won’t require, a respirator,” said Murillo.

MINSA has designated 19 hospitals, nationwide, for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, yet has not publicly disclosed the list. Journalists at La Prensa, working from a leaked MINSA document that describes the ministry’s COVID-19 plans, were able to identify 10 hospitals, which were selected to diagnose and treat travelers coming into the country through any of the legal border checkpoints, seaports, or the AC. Sandino International Airport.

COVID-19 Designated Hospitals in Nicaragua

LocationHospital NameNumber of beds (2004)
ManaguaHospital Alemán Nicaragüense282
RivasHospital Departamental Gaspar García Laviana223
ChinandegaHospital Departamental España149
Madriz & SomotoHospital Departamental Juan Brenes145
Nueva SegoviaHospital Departamental Alfonso Moncada115
Río San JuanHospital Departamental Luis Felipe Moncada45
ChontalesHospital Asunción183
LeónHospital Oscar Danilo Rosales414
RAANHospital Nuevo Amanecer114
RAASHospital Ernesto Sequeira138

Source: La Prensa

The document does not identify hospitals in Carazo, Masaya, Granada, Boaco, Estelí, Jinotega, and Matagalpa, as none of these locations have border checkpoints, airports, or seaports. Departmental health authorities are responsible for selecting those hospitals, although that information has not been made public, according to La Prensa.

Murillo spoke for about 13 minutes, without stating the city where this first case was identified. However, she stated that medical authorities were performing contact tracing, in order to identify everyone who had been in contact with the patient.

“Everyone who has been in contact with him, every member of his family that presents symptoms, will be tested immediately.”

Waiting for symptoms before testing runs contrary to the WHO’s recommendations.

On Monday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, urged countries to test every suspected case.

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded, and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected. We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test, said Ghebreyesus.”

Murillo encouraged the Nicaraguan population to have “confidence” in the government she represents, as Daniel Ortega has yet to address the nation on the subject of COVID-19

Our people trust in the sense of responsibility, in the experience, in the wisdom born from experience, and in the humility that allow us to learn, every day, because we’re not vain about these subjects. We say what we know, as soon as we know it. We know there is one person affected [by COVID19] and we said so, because our duty is to be serious and to inform right away.

This is a developing story.

Listen to Murillo’s address here (in Spanish)