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Managua, May 23 . .- Although the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped the fragile economic activity in Nicaragua, the new coronavirus has scared merchants and customers from markets and shopping centers in the country, where the decrease in visits is notorious.

Markets in Managua, such as the Oriental, which received about 100,000 customers daily, or the Roberto Huembes, which attracted some 8,000 buyers, are now more empty, not only due to the lack of buyers, but also because more and more merchants refuse to return. to their stores.

“Of course there has been less influx, since the first contagion was detected, in March, as 50% of the merchants declared ourselves in a self-quarantine, I tried to return, but it is not worth the risk of contracting the coronavirus,” the Efe told merchant Lisandro Roque, seller of school supplies at the Mercado Oriental.

According to Roque, part of the fear is due to the fact that the Government only admits 279 confirmed cases and 17 deaths from the pandemic, much less than the 2,323 infected and 465 deaths reported by the independent Citizen Observatory COVID-19, which enjoys greater credibility than the authorities in Nicaragua.

“THIS IS GENERAL”

Some of the most active areas of the Oriental market, such as vegetables, or clothing stores, are becoming clearer every day, and there are times during the day when they are accessible by car.

“This is general, the whole sale is bad, customers do not come, you have to walk more to be able to sell, and sometimes it is not enough,” said Luisa López, one of the 2,000 street vendors who daily visit the Oriental.

The lowest influx in the markets is also observed in the buses that cover these routes, since before they traveled with excess passengers, but now no one has to literally hang on the door.

Even the shopping malls, where those least affected by the economic crisis Nicaragua had suffered since before the pandemic, shop today are devastated, visitors do not accumulate, parking lots are not full, taxis do not stop traffic around , and closed stores are not strange.

In the most luxurious shopping center in Nicaragua, located on the outskirts of Managua, which was once a popular spot, today it hardly sees people pass by, several stores, including a visited cafeteria and establishments of world-famous brands, closed.

Through the glass of one of those stores, it is observed how the correspondence accumulated from the door takes the form of a tree on the floor, as a symbol of the economic damages caused by the pandemic.

“RED NUMBERS”

According to the Central Bank of Nicaragua, the local Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by -3.9% last year, and contracted by -4% in 2018, as a result of the socio-political crisis that has affected the country since the popular uprising. against Ortega, two years ago.

The forecasts are not flattering. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), in 2020 Nicaragua’s GDP will fall by 5.9%, this as a product of COVID-19, since before the pandemic the Government estimated growth 0.5%.

Roque and López agree that the merchants who attend the markets do so because they are desperate, since the majority must pay debts to usurers who charge interest of up to 20%.

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In the case of customers, these are seen less and less in establishments that offer clothing, and more frequently in pharmacies and food sales, which are becoming more expensive every week, they maintain, while the government reports that the products maintain your prices.

Yes, there are days and hours the markets seem to come alive, like those that follow payment dates and certain weekends in the month, but in the Oriental, 100,000 dishes of food are no longer served every day, nor do 50,000 employees arrive. indicated by official data.

The SARS-coV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is like a ghost that scares off buyers and sellers.

Wilder Pérez R.

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