By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – The year 2021 is upon us and Cubans, like others, can’t say that “life carries on as normal”. The pandemic is getting worse, as well as other diseases, which were under control before. However, they are now booming because of medicine shortages.
Let’s add to this the new currency landscape, and uncertainty about economic reforms drafted a decade ago. These put an end to many subsidies and involve a pay increase for state workers. But with the increasing inflation, the real effect is somewhat uncertain.
In terms of COVID-19, the “new normal” led to a greater number of positive cases that are on the rise. Mayari, where I live, was relatively safe from community transmission, up until recently. Now it’s gone completely out of control after people moved around and gathered at the end of the year.
Before the “new normal” phase, we only had three positive cases in Mayari, and we’ve had 23 since this new phase was announced. Eight cases in this new year alone. This number is likely to increase because there are already over 60 people suspected of being infected that are awaiting their PCR test results.
It seems there is no way out of this highly-contagious disease: if you close the economy, everything grinds to a halt and there’s no way of getting by; and if you let people move about, then it inevitably spreads.
The worst thing is that Cubans have lots of problems of their own. The fact is, this country is at breaking point. It doesn’t normally work well, so what can I tell you now that we have so many restrictions in place to tackle the pandemic. To make matters worse, other diseases are making life even harder.
While there is no official announcement yet, several cases of dengue have appeared in the municipality. There are always breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the vector of this disease. Right here in my neighborhood, in Guayabo, a few houses down from mine, my neighbor tested positive. I know of other cases a little more distant in recent weeks. In the middle of all of this, we had a mosquito breeding ground just 200m away from my house.
It’s pretty sure that there’s another case of dengue in the neighborhood that extends from Cespedes Street in the city. I discovered this because a child I know was evacuated to a house near mine, for fear that he might become infected in his own home where the positive case was recorded. This is how we finds things out, from word of mouth, or via people working on the anti-vector campaign, which is almost like a whisper on the wind, secretly warning neighbors.
Amidst this hostile situation, the government has put lockdown measures back into place to prevent a spike in COVID-19 infections. As always wearing a mask outside, limiting crowds at food stores, suspending hospital visits, and so on.
However, this comes at a time when the population is adapting to new prices and wages. Shortages are even greater and disproportionate inflation, making Cubans even more anxious. However, food and medicine shortages are the saddest thing right now.
It’s the perfect cocktail for losing your mind. Lots of diseases and no medicine, higher wages but their purchasing power is less because prices are going up a lot more than the pay rise. In the meantime, official TV continues to show a country making headway despite all these difficulties.
The Communist Party government wants to convince us that “this time we will come out on top.” They continue to accuse people pushing for democratic change as serving “the enemy’s” agenda. But all this does is make the landscape a whole lot bleaker.
This is how our 2021 has begun, for Mayari locals and all Cubans, burdened with uncertainty. Where we still can’t see the light at the end of this never-ending tunnel of hardship and impotence. Hope only lies in a few vilified slogans that we continue to believe in and repeat. That come rain and shine, a better Cuba is possible.