Pandemic, Getting Back to Normal and Discipline

Havana bus stop. Photo: Juan Suarez

By Miguel Arias Sanchez

HAVANA TIMES – After almost three months of being practically cut off from the world at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I now go out to take a walk, with my mask and a bottle of disinfectant to wash my hands every now and then, taking care to keep my distance.

This disease has taken thousands of lives across the globe, and a vaccine still hasn’t been found. At this point in time, many countries have relaxed lockdown measures, which were absolute in some places.

We have seen this happen in China, Italy, Spain, countries where the pandemic was completely merciless; in others such as the US and Brazil, which have been the epicenter in the Americas. Every country has adopted measures depending on the virus’ impact, some more efficiently than others, some with more government support than others. The fact is that so much human and economic loss continues to be great for everyone.

It’s no different in Cuba. We are suffering the impact of this disease, although a lot of work has been done, respecting health protocols. There is a key point to success bringing these efforts during the lockdown period home: discipline, both of the State and institutions, as well as the population.

Opening up the country again to everyday activity has been planned and staggered in phases, which I believe is very smart; right now, the majority of the country is in the second phase and Havana continues to be in the first because it continues to report cases of local transmission.

The capital is a more problematic place because of overcrowding. Generally-speaking, we live in special conditions in Cuba because we spend most of our day in crowds, whether that’s on buses, in never-ending lines, or gatherings of friends or family.

Even in these dangerous times, with the wealth of information out there about how the disease has crippled the world, there are still some people who go out and don’t wear a mask or wear it incorrectly.

The government has given the population free access to beaches, and it’s very difficult to enforce health measures there. Public transport is running again, which is another central point. Young people especially are meeting up in groups to talk, drink, eat, without keeping their distance – although older people are doing it too. In short, I’m waiting for the moment a new outbreak is reported, like what has happened elsewhere in the world.

I was surprised because with shortages of cleaning products and water in some parts of the capital, the situation hasn’t been that dire, but now I’m afraid the second outbreak might be worse. We still haven’t understood just how dangerous this virus is and how easily it can be transmitted. We haven’t got it into our heads that this isn’t just about me, but it’s about everyone.

I am scared, maybe because I feel like I’m part of a risk group, in this case, just being a human being. We have already seen that this virus doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, race or place of birth. If we all act a little responsibly and do things properly, we might be able to make it out of this science fiction movie a little better off.


Miguel Arias

Miguel Arias Sánchez: I was born in Regla in 1949. That’s where I went to elementary and high school. Afterwards I took courses to be a teacher and did that for several years. I did my military service and as soon as I got out I studied formally to be a teacher graduating at the University of Havana. I taught in classrooms for nearly 20 years. I had the opportunity to travel and see another reality. I returned and am currently doing different self-employed activities.

3 thoughts on “Pandemic, Getting Back to Normal and Discipline

  • Cuba was blesses Nick, in not having a single case of Covid until March 11 when the three Italians arrived in Trinidad, prior to being transferred to Havana. Next on March 17, the first infected Cuban was a man from Matanzas who worked at Varadero. On March 20 at 6 p.m. all TV programs on all 8 stations were halted and for two hours, Diaz-Canel along with Marrero and their respective deputies laid out firm directions. Non Cubans had ten days to get out before the airports closed – it wasn’t easy getting flights and a touch scary running the gauntlet in a full wide-bodied jet including re-directed German and Danish tourists who were transferred to Air Canada because Lufthansa wouldn’t collect them. Transportation ceased – no “buses” no taxis, no bici-taxis. Schools closed – they are due to open in September.
    The reality is that Cuba shut the door quickly and effectively. By March 23, we received a “health visitor” who laid out conditions. So effectively, the virus barely got started.
    You are correct in that tourism has to re-start – indeed it has, but limited to the off-shore islands. Air Canada is anticipating flights to the mainland at the end of the first week in September. Obviously the US will be locked out, as it is in Canada. Some US citizens have been caught in Canada having told the border guards that they were en route to Alaska – but then going to Banff. Severe conditions with future fines have been imposed. The US has by its behaviour, made itself into a pariah in travel terms.
    There is one major difference between Biden and Diaz-Canel, Biden not only has a sense of humour, but is also known to smile!

  • Very good article. My impression regarding the pandemic in Cuba is that the authorities have reacted fairly well and that the measures have been taken pretty seriously by people.
    But there is another factor. The virus simply does not appear to have spread despite sometimes cramped living conditions, shared facilities and the considerable amount of standing in queues (lines).
    So is that other factor simply good fortune? Luck?
    As the Miguel states, the virus has been ‘merciless’ in other parts of the world. But thankfully not in Cuba.
    As Miguel alludes to and as Mr MacD states, the virus ain’t going away anytime soon.
    So will Cuba continue to have a relatively low incidence (whether by design, due to luck, or both)?? Tourism is being reintroduced in other parts of the world where there is relatively low incidence. In Cuba it is an economic necessity. This would increase the risk of localised outbreaks (often due to asymptotic individuals).
    Mr MacD mentions that trump thinks the virus will ‘just go away’. Hopefully, come November, it will be trump himself who will ‘just go away’.
    Let’s face it, Joe Biden has about as much charisma as, well, Miguel Diaz Canel.
    But who cares about charisma in the face of this pandemic which is reaping such an awful toll? Here in the U.K. we have a leader who is alleged by some to have ‘charisma’. But we have a Covid death rate even worse than the USA.
    If successful in November, what Biden might be able to do is this:
    Make America Coherent Again.

  • The Covid 19 virus is here to stay. Even although the methods of transmission and prevention of the HIV virus are limited and have been known for many years, compared with those of Covid 19, it continues to infect and affect.

    Much hope is being pinned upon vaccines, but they will at best only mitigate the levels of infection.

    The myth propagated by President Donald J Trump. that Covid 19 “One day it will just go away.” is the unrealistic pious hope of a scientific ignoramus, whose greatest academic achievement was passing a hospital test for comprehension. But it has to be said, that it was only following passing that test, that he adopted to occasionally wearing a mask.

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