In the first 14 days of August, according to government figures 123,325 people were infected with COVID-19, and 1178 of these have died, with a daily average of 8809 cases and 84 deaths, in the country of 11.2 million persons.
HAVANA TIMES – With warning numbers that had the Matanzas province on high alert now under control, the greatest challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cuba has moved to other regions, with high numbers of cases and a high Rt rate, as new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread through the country.
Out of the 8809 cases confirmed by August 14th in the country, the southern-central province of Cienfuegos had reported 990 cases, out of which 687 were recorded in the capital municipality, Cienfuegos, followed by Cumanayagua (176). The province has a population of 407,000. [Editor’s note: on August 17 there were a total of 1,317 positive cases in Cienfuegos detected.]
Amid a surge in cases from new variants, especially the Delta variant, which is highly contagious, Cienfuegos and its 9 deaths on August 14th isn’t the only region that is experiencing a tough situation due to the pandemic.
While statistics from Villa Clara (588) and Holguin (300) provinces don’t appear to be so alarming, they accounted for 17 and 15 deaths respectively, out of the 98 COVID-19-related deaths recorded on August 14th.
In the easter province of Holguin, it was predicted that cases would increase sharply so the circulation of people and vehicles was reduced “which unfortunately threatens the fight against COVID-19,” according to the vice-minister of Transport, Roberto Ricardo, who had stayed in this region in order to strengthen the local response to the pandemic.
Four municipalities in Ciego de Avila figure among those with the highest infection rates, and vehicle circulation was also limited there after fake authorizations were detected, private vehicles with state cards and state-owned cars circulating without passes, among other illegal activities, according to the local press.
While the Cuban capital has witnessed a slight decline in the number of positive cases, it reported 1059 cases in its 15 municipalities on August 14th, which was the consequence of high levels of circulation and the proximity to other regions.
Still unable to turn the corner
Ever since June, Cuba has been experiencing an unprecedented epidemiological situation and 123,325 new infections were reported from August 1-14, with a daily average of 8809 infections and 84 deaths, which are much higher than numbers in July, which had been the highest until then, with 6464 new cases and 50 deaths per day.
Statistics from the Ministry of Public Health indicate that 29 Cuban municipalities had more than 100 new cases, on August 14th.
Analyzing the pandemic situation, president Miguel Diaz-Canel admitted that the current situation exceeds the capacity of the national health system, putting pressure on all of its personnel. the organizations that are helping to fight the virus, and also causing greater consumption of medicines and oxygen.
In his daily briefing, the director of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, Francisco Duran, said that 93,119 people are in quarantine at hospitals and isolation centers, as well as at home, out of which 40,472 have tested positive for COVID-19.
Bringing the national total to 517,668 positive cases and 4,023 deaths, since March 2020.
Duran warned that the Delta variant is highly contagious, so that when a family becomes exposed to it, almost all of its members become infected.
According to Diaz-Canel, “there are signs that we can gradually improve the situation, but we need to compliment vaccinations, ensure and sustain this with everyone being responsible.”
In his opinion, “this won’t happen if we don’t uphold quarantine measures, respect hygiene measures, if we don’t support all of the unfortunate restrictions that we have to have in conditions like these so we can stop the spread of the virus.”
Flaws in the health system
When most Cubans have to go out every day to ensure they are able to put food on the table, the government is debating how to keep the economy afloat and to handle the pandemic.
According to TV reports, after visits to the provinces with high infection rates, prime minister Manuel Marrero pointed out organization problems in how the health system operates, violations of protocol and the absence of working systems to control home quarantine.
Marrero also highlighted problems at hospitals and isolation centers – from the lack of hygiene to medical assistance -, as well as in doctor’s offices and neighborhoods,” that have decided today that the country must come out of this difficult crisis.”
He warned that mistakes detected in Ciego de Avila, Holguin and Guantanamo, complicate the situation created by medicine shortages and a deficit in medical personnel and nurses in health facilities.
Marrero said we shouldn’t be ashamed because, just like in other countries, the ability of our health institutions has been exceeded, but that when “on top of the pressure from the pandemic the effects are multiplied by shoddiness, malpractices and mistakes.”
Criticism from the prime minister about health personnel during a meeting to evaluate the pandemic situation, which he blamed for the current situation, led to protests on social media and an open letter and videos rejecting his opinions.
Vaccinations are the priority
On August 10th, authorities from the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Group (BioCubaFarma) repeated that the priority is still to speed ahead with vaccinations, so as to vaccinate the entire population by the end of the year.
According to the director of epidemiology, strategies are being adopted to speed up vaccinations in different age groups and regions, when the country has only vaccinated 26.9% of the population with three doses, 32.2% with two and 4.7% with the first dose of the Cuban Abdala vaccine.