Por Rosa Martínez
HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban government has taken lots of measures to try and stop the COVID-19 outbreak here, which the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic just a few weeks ago.
Isolation is one of the measures that has proven most effective in avoiding transmission of this terrible virus. In Cuba, 67 cases have been reported up until now and they have all been imported. A total lockdown hasn’t been announced yet, which is to say that most workers are still going to work, except for teachers at every educational level, a few agencies that aren’t associated with production and services, and those who can work from home which are the rare few given the country’s own technological limitations.
Some people, myself included, take social isolation very seriously, as we know that this is the only way to prevent infection. I decided to be my family’s messenger/errand woman, that is to say that I am the only one who can come in and out of the house, and I always follow the safety measures I can to make sure I don’t bring any virus back with me, if I were to come into close contact with it, of course.
On the street, I keep my distance from people while I wait in lines – which is my main and almost the only reason I leave home (to look for food). I wear a mask I made at home, I try to not touch anything apart from what I’m going to buy, and the most difficult thing not only for me, but for everyone: when I run into friends or people I know, I greet them without hugs and kisses. A greeting without hugs and kisses has to be one of the strangest experiences for your average Cuban.
In my neighborhood, keeping yourself partially isolated or any other measure to prevent COVID-19 infection is a lot more difficult that wandering about the city’s streets.
As I’ve told you on different occasions, I live in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Guantanamo city, which means that most of my neighbors not only have a low purchasing power, but they are very friendly and talkative, and they think of each other as family.
And this familiarity is great in most situations, but awful under our current circumstances, as my neighborhood friends disregard the guidelines announced in the press and constantly move from one house to another, doing a favor, asking for something. Several of them meet up like they normally do to talk about some interesting matter, and nobody or nearly nobody is staying at home.
It’s true that we don’t have a confirmed case of COVID-19 here in Guantanamo yet, but does that really mean that we don’t have somebody walking about and spreading this virus left and right, without even knowing?
The country’s borders have been partially closed, at least to receiving citizens who aren’t Cuban residents; the Government took its long sweet time – most people recognize this – but it did finally close it. Now I find myself with the dilemma of finding a way to close our family border without hurting anyone’s feelings.
The truth is that I thought that it wouldn’t be so hard to set ourselves up at home in self-isolation what with how much information we have about how much havoc Coronavirus is wreaking all over the planet.
I just hope that when I do manage to close my border it isn’t at the same moment in time as when the country did it, which was a little too late.