Hard to believe but the traditional 15 August parties in Juigalpa were not cancelled, but at least took place with adherence to some special preventive measures. For example, the bull-fighting did not take place in the arena in the centre of town, but on the outskirts of the town, and the number of spectators that were allowed was somewhat reduced.
But people did take part in parades, although their numbers were smaller than in previous years, according to a taxi-driver I talked to. This was also confirmed by a colleague who lives in a house along the route for the parade.
The church did not participate, although the event, the celebration of Maria’s ascension, is a religious festival. The church is very aware that Nicaragua has not yet reached the stage that corona measures should be relaxed, and discourages people from getting together in large groups. The parade consisted of a number of trucks carrying images of saints through the streets (see picture). No great mass was held on the 15th in the cathedral, only a virtual one.
A special committee in collaboration with municipal authorities is in charge of organizing annual public events. Every Municipality with a Sandinistic mayor happily pretends that COVID-19 is not a big issue, thereby mimicking the President, or rather his wife the Vice President, as the President himself has hardly made any public appearance in recent months. It is progress that at least the Government now admits that COVID-19 is a problem, as for months they denied this. They even cancelled the normally big event in Managua (the capital) to celebrate 41 years since the 1979 revolution in Nicaragua.
According to official figures of the Ministry of Health 3,540 people up till now have been infected with the virus, of which 133 people died. The Ministry is in sole control of testing for the virus, but not a lot of testing takes place. Published data show that people dying from pneumonia has drastically increased recently.
Statistics from an independent observatory show 9,645 infections up till now and 2,626 deaths, a huge difference from Government statistics. Another sign of a change in the Government is that it has requested a huge loan from the BID (Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo) to help Nicaragua fight the consequences of the pandemic. The Government has also put heavy demands on aviation companies, as air travel is seen as a man route for infections. Flights into Nicaragua are constantly re-scheduled. Till the end of August there are no incoming or outgoing flights from the international airport in Managua.
Life in Juigalpa feels definitely quieter and we do not hear much about ill people who have symptoms which could be COVID-19, but nonetheless it would be premature to conclude that COVID-19 is under control in Nicaragua. And we are now waiting with baited breath to hear whether there will be an increase in infections after last week’s big events. The event in Juigalpa was just one of the 3, 00 activities which were organised by Municipalities and Government in recent days nation-wide. (source: La Prensa, 18/8). We’ll know more two weeks from now.