MANAGUA (AP) – Roger Ordóñez was hospitalized for respiratory problems last week.

When his son Enrique came to visit him the next morning, the 69-year-old retiree was already being buried by Health Ministry employees, dressed from head to toe in white protective suits, in a cemetery on the outskirts of Chinandega, a city of 133,000 inhabitants in northwest Nicaragua.

From the arrival of a patient a strict protocol is followed.

The hospital advised the Ordóñez family to be quarantined for two weeks, but denied that the father had a coronavirus, although they did not show them the test results.

The government of President Daniel Ortega resisted imposing measures to control COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, for more than two months from the appearance of the first case in Nicaragua. Now, doctors and family members of the alleged victims say the government has gone from denying the presence of the virus in the country to actively trying to hide its spread.

The Rappi company released a novel way of delivering addresses in which neither the domicile nor the person who receives it is contagious.

“I begged the doctor to tell me what happened to him,” Enrique Ordóñez told The Associated Press. “I needed to know if I was infected. I have an 18-month-old girl, my mother has a variety of ailments and we need to know whether or not my father died from COVID. ”

The government assures that in the country of 6.5 million inhabitants there are only five dead and 16 infected since the first case was confirmed in March. Businesses and government offices remain open, and the executive has actively promoted sporting events and other mass events.

These images show a shipment of 500 corpses arriving in Manaus.

In its most recent report, the NGO Citizen Observatory, made up of doctors and activists, claimed to have identified 1,033 suspected cases of COVID-19 in the country as of Saturday.

Nicaraguan doctor Álvaro Ramírez, who was head of Epidemiology during the Sandinista revolution and currently lives in Ireland, said that the number of infections is already much higher and that the next few days “will be decisive” for Nicaragua. He estimates that in two weeks there could be about 18,000 infections, of which 890 would be serious.

The emblematic Christ the Redeemer from Rio de Janeiro projected the message “The mask saves.”

For the past week, plainclothes police and government supporters have detained journalists in the vicinity of a hospital in the capital, Managua, and in a cemetery in Chinandega, where the pandemic is becoming difficult to hide.

The presence of men in white suits on board trucks with sealed coffins has become commonplace for residents. And it seems that everyone knows someone who has become ill.

In Ecuador, one of the most affected countries on the continent, the authorities confirmed that there is a gap of 5,700 deaths.

A Chinandega doctor, who asked to speak anonymously for fear of retaliation, said he knew four people who died. One of them was one of his patients and was buried two hours after he died, he added.

“Everyone who believes they have died of atypical pneumonia is buried immediately,” he said.

These are workshops that are located in penitentiary centers throughout Ecuador and that have been enlisted to help cope with the consequences of the pandemic.

Most diagnoses are made based on patients’ symptoms and lung x-rays because tests for the virus are strictly controlled by the Ministry of Health and are difficult to obtain.

An informal network of Chinandega doctors “counted 25 alleged deaths from COVID-19 as of last Sunday,” the doctor said. “If we manage to survive this, it is because God is great. There is no other explanation. “

Enrique Ordóñez, who is a sales executive, knew that his father suffered from chronic ailments such as hypertension and respiratory problems, but noted that last week he was suddenly having trouble breathing. He took him to the hospital on Thursday and that same night he died.

“The hospital organized everything, they put the box and the land,” he said, recalling that when he came to ask about his father on Friday morning, he learned that he was already being buried. “I tried to identify the grave as best I could, because earlier, at dawn, they had buried others and there were seven or eight more graves next to it.”

“I wonder, if my father did not die from coronavirus, why did they not let us bury him? Because I didn’t bury my father, they buried him. But you know, we can’t raise our voices much. Fear is widespread in our country, “he added.

According to the latest report from the Central American Integration System (SICA), as of Monday, 24,257 people have fallen ill with coronaviruses in the region and 818 died. Countries like Honduras and El Salvador adopted strict measures against the disease, and many wonder why Nicaragua has so few cases without taking any preventive action.

A request for comment to the vice president, Rosario Murillo, who is also a government spokeswoman and first lady, received no response.

But it seems that the government is beginning to recognize what lies ahead. In late April, the Ministry of Health summoned all hospital directors and high-level medical authorities to a meeting.

“They were told that this is getting serious and that everyone should prepare,” Róger Pasquier, president of the Nicaraguan Association of Anesthesiology, said in an interview with The Associated Press, which he believes is late.

“Isolation measures have not been taken here, health workers have not been protected, there are not enough beds in any hospital in Managua, nor in any regional hospital,” he added.

“Contrary to what is officially shared, I know through my medical colleagues that we have a large number of sick people in Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa and Chinandega, where there is an outbreak that could be very dangerous,” said Pasquier.

Although many doctors fear public speaking, almost 600 specialists signed a letter in early May demanding protection equipment for all health workers from the government. José Antonio Vásquez, president of the Nicaraguan Medical Unit, an organization that was formed after the April 2018 protests, said the group has identified more than 42 apparently infected doctors, nurses and technicians.