COVID-19 in Cuba: New Tensions and Virus Variants

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.

The Cuban government’s priority is to speed ahead with vaccinations, so as to vaccinate the entire population by the end of the year. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By IPS Cuba

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.

Troubling statistics

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.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

8 thoughts on “COVID-19 in Cuba: New Tensions and Virus Variants

  • I regret that one person on here felt guns in the hands of Cubans was a solution. and create another mini America with high crime, drug infested ghettos etc and feed into a civil war like in US with Left vs Right, because there are many who still support the government remember.
    Obama felt you get more flies with honey and he started to bridge and reach out. Things were a bit looser after his trip. People had hope, yes a glimmer is hope is better than none which is what many have now. Trump did not need to declare it a terrorist state, that is laughable…. while he hugged Kim of NK, voiced his admiration of the power that Xi and Putin had, and allowed citizens to visit these very dangerous countries where americans are still in jail for trumped up charges . I do not see Canadians being kidnapped or put in jail out of retaliation like in China.
    Cuba is not asking for $$ from US, remember they have never accepted USD for Guantanamo or help during a natural disaster, they only ask for a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD like Vietnam, China , Russia and autocratic countries like Saudi Arabia , Turkey, etc have with the USA.

  • Winston Johnson – Must be an American, where more guns are the solution to every problem.

  • in 2008,i was considering the possibility of living in Cuba and seeking employment by buying a old car and fixing it up to be a taxi driver so i could live with my wife and be happy in a relative crime free good Cuban friend Reuben advised me that the Cuban government was like a snake always changing directions and would feed upon anyone suggesting or showing change.”Oh every thing changes ,I replied.Well to make a long story short I paid heed to his advice and got my wife and two boys out of CUBA. It was the best thing i ever did.Nothing will change in cuba unless you kill alot of commies and without guns the cuban people are damned to be cattle! Ps trump you did not do shit for this change only reagan would have attempted something and give up on biden!

  • Those commentors who lament the lack of US support have been living under a rock. Every night on national Cuban television, the political commentary program Mesa Redonda is produced to include vapid criticism of the US and other political system. Washington DC is crawling with Cuban spies and informants bent on political and social disruption. This is the country we should feel obligated to support? Really?

  • Why should the US be funding the terrorist state of Cuba? They always pretend they have the best healthcare but it was another lie from the dictatorship. Cuba remains a human rights nightmare for the citizens. The LGBT is still persecuted. Cuba will not give basic rights to people but somehow the US and Canada are supposed to keep giving them money. Cuba contributes nothing to the global community except destabilizing democracies, homophobia, and authoritarian abuses.

  • I agree Dave
    Why is the US and Canada NOT Doing anything to help the people if not the government …. Where are all the humanitarian organizations ? We have only seen on here in Canada
    Friends of Cuba…… they have a Facebook page ….. they are sending items to Cuba ……

  • Cuba is so close it would be nothing for our United States to provide medical and other support. Why isn’t this happening? Tell me joe biden. Why aren’t you helping your neighbor?

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