Roger Ordoñez was hospitalized with breathing problems last week.

When his son Enrique came to visit the next morning, the 69-year-old retiree was already being buried by government workers in protective white full-body suits in a cemetery on the outskirts of Chinandega, a city of 133,000 people in northwest Nicaragua.

The hospital warned the Ordoñez family to self-quarantine for two weeks but said their patriarch did not have the novel coronavirus, even though they were shown no test results.

President Daniel Ortega’s government has stood out for its refusal to impose measures to halt the coronavirus for more than two months since the disease was first diagnosed in Nicaragua. Now, doctors and family members of apparent victims say, the government has gone from denying the disease’s presence in the country to actively trying to conceal its spread.

Story continues below advertisement

“I begged the doctor to tell me what happened to him,” Enrique Ordoñez said. “I needed to know if he was infected. I have an 18-month-old girl, my mother has a variety of ailments and we need to know if it was COVID.”

The government says this country of 6.5 million people has seen 16 coronavirus cases and five deaths since its first case was diagnosed.