Nicaragua sends students back to school despite virus fears
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaragua ordered its more than 1.8 million students back to class Monday, in spite of concerns about spreading the novel coronavirus that have led other countries in the region to try to keep education on track through remote learning.
Nicaragua also showed its unwillingness to heed health warnings by telling some 130,000 state workers to return to their jobs following a two-week hiatus for religious observations.
Government education adviser Salvador Vanegas told the government website El 19 Monday that Health Ministry protocols about hand-washing hand been implemented.
That was of little comfort to worried families.
“I fear for the health of my four grandchildren who are going to class and can’t miss them because they’ve been told if they don’t go they’ll lose points,” said Gertrudis Palacio, a domestic worker from Las Esquinas, south of the capital.
Elsewhere in Central America governments have taken extreme measures, closing borders and imposing curfews, but Nicaragua has encouraged people to go about their lives, even to attend mass gatherings.
International organizations have expressed concerns about the lack of social distancing and preparations even as many Nicaraguans try to take their own precautions.
Jonathan López, a member of the University Coordinator for Democracy and Justice, which is linked to the opposition, said university officials have threatened to expel students who don’t attend class.
Jorge Mendoza, director of the non-governmental organization, Education and Human Development Forum, characterized the government’s decision as “blindness” and “a carelessness that is going to cost dearly” as the students are potentially exposed to the virus and could spread it.
As of Saturday, the Health Ministry had reported nine positive cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. Thirteen more are suspected cases and are being monitored.
The government has not said how many people have been tested since its first confirmed case in mid-March.
When President Daniel Ortega reappeared last week to give a televised speech after a 34-day public absence, he said Nicaraguans “haven’t stopped working, because if this country stops working, it dies.”