New restrictions will be adopted if the current spike in COVID-19 cases, linked to arrivals from abroad doesn’t slow down.
HAVANA TIMES – Opening up international airports and more travelers entering the country has drastically changed the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cuba, which was relatively under control. Now, over 1000 new cases recorded in the past 15 days, led to less flights, from January 1st. Additionally, the requirement of a negative PCR test upon arrival, from January 10th.
Between December 17th and 31st, Cuba recorded 1,111 new positive cases: 427 in Havana, 128 in Santiago de Cuba, 105 in Artemisa, 90 in Mayabeque and 80 in Matanzas, announced the epidemiology director at the Ministry of Public Health, Francisco Duran. [Note 316 cases were recorded on January 3 and 224 on January 4.]
In recent weeks, the country has shown a setback in controlling the pandemic, with growing community-transmission cases. Contact with people infected abroad and violations of established health and hygiene regulations are common. Likewise, unheeded calls not to receive visitors or hold welcome home parties.
According to the doctor, 3782 people tested positive with SARS-CoV-2 since early November up until December 23rd. Of those, 1557 (41.6%) were from sources of infection abroad and 2207 (58.4%) locally transmitted.
He warned that imported cases led to a significant spread of the disease, the source of 1,128 locally transmitted infections, accounting for 51.1% of people testing positive in the country.
Statistics from the Ministry of Public Health show that Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion municipality had the greatest number of cases, with 61 people testing positive in the last days of 2020, which exceeds the number of cases in the provinces: Guantanamo – 40, Granma – 37, Pinar del Rio – 29, Holguin – 28, and Las Tunas – 25.
Reduced flights started at the beginning of January, for flights coming from countries with the highest number of infected travelers: The US, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.
In addition to slashing the number of flights coming in, which has resulted in cancellations and further expenses for travelers, Cuba has adopted other measures. The government warns that if the situation remains out of control, the country may go back to greater restrictions.
With the new spike in cases, the Cuban government decided to make it mandatory for all international travelers to present a negative PCR test result upon arrival. The test administered no more than 72 hours before the flight and by an accredited laboratory in the country of departure.
For those entering the country purposes other than tourism, a second PCR test will still be administered 5 days after arrival. Cuban travelers who reside abroad and don’t have the conditions to stay in their homes or family homes to quarantine, will be given accommodation.
Another option available for Cubans living abroad is to pay to stay at a hotel meant for quarantine.
According to Duran, if these regulations aren’t enough to turn the situation around, then travelers coming to the country may have to stay at isolation centers again. This, instead of at home, as violations of quarantine at homes have led to many infections.
Outcry over flights
Cutting the number of flights from countries with high numbers of cases has sparked mixed reactions on social media. Opinions, mostly negative, can be grouped into the following:
– Supporting flight regulations and the requirement of a negative PCR test. This given acts of indiscipline and violations of protocol, which has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases. The same occurred in other countries.
– People asking why wasn’t a negative PCR test required as soon as airports reopened? Likewise, why cut the number of flights first and, then the PCR requirement only starts on January 10th?
– Those who believe that reducing the number of flights won’t stop transmission and will only make matters worse for people who will lose their flights. This might involve them losing their jobs or missing school, in the case of children.
Covid-19 in Cuba
According to figures from the Cuban government:
– Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, on March 11th, up until January 2nd, 1,513,264 PCR tests have been carried out, 12,424 of which have been positive. 10,676 people have recovered.
– COVID-19 has resulted in 147 fatalities, 8 of which have been in the past 17 days.
– During the pandemic, more men have been affected than women. Meanwhile, 65.9% of the total number of cases (7952) were asymptomatic when taking the test.
– Under-20s account for 1,317 cases.
– At the beginning of the pandemic, there were three molecular biology labs running. This network has grown to 18 labs, across the country.