The president had not spoken publicly since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, leading many Nicaraguans and international observers to wonder whether he was ill and in quarantine.
But Mr. Ortega looked well during a live televised speech Wednesday night, wearing his usual baseball cap and windbreaker, and flanked by his wife and several other officials. Many people took his appearance as a bid to quell rumors.
Nicaragua, a country of 6.4 million people, has been widely criticized for its unusually casual approach to the pandemic, leaving schools open and allowing large public events to take place. The government claims that only three people currently have Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, and only one has died from it.
The World Health Organization has said that it is worried about Nicaragua’s lack of social distancing, its sparse testing for the virus and its lack of contact tracing.
Mr. Ortega said on Wednesday that the contagion is a message from God.
“I am convinced that this pandemic, this virus that has multiplied throughout the planet, that there is no force that can block it, there is no barrier that can block it, there is no wall that can block it,” he said.
Mr. Ortega, a socialist, used his speech to take aim at a familiar target, the United States, and its handling of the coronavirus.
“Nicaraguans who have been deported tell about how they were caged, with no attention to their health,” he said. That is no surprise, he added, when the United States, for all its might, does not have the capacity to give answers to its own citizens.”