Different civic initiatives encourage actions to show solidarity towards those infected, to raise awareness about the risks of COVID-19 and how to prevent an outbreak.
By IPS Cuba
HAVANA TIMES – Messages of support and faith, encouraging good hygienic practices, canceling events, music concerts online and petitions about the government’s response, have all been actions that Cuban civil society are pushing in the face of the new Coronavirus pandemic.
Up until Sunday March 22nd, 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the country and 954 people were being monitored – including children – in a country which has canceled cultural events, postponed mass gatherings, implemented health measures in workplaces and greater controls at its borders.
Civil society has raised its voice and launched a petition addressed to the Council of Ministers, on the Avaaz platform, asking them to close air and sea borders, shut down schools at every educational level and to cut working hours, as well as to allow people to work from home, as well as other demands. [Some of these suggestions were included in new measures from Monday night.]
In the meantime, the government defended that “measures being taken in the country are in line with the current situation of the disease and its repercussions on the population.”
The fact that the World Health Organization has declared the disease as a pandemic, “does not necessarily force us to close the borders. At this point in time, the right measure is to control and monitor travelers entering the country,” doctor Pablo Feal Canizares, director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Unit (PROSALUD), stated during a discussion organized by the official newspaper Granma.
On Friday March 20th, President Diaz-Canel announced that foreign visitors would no longer be allowed to enter the country, but that flights would be allowed to fly the 60,000 tourists currently on the island back to their own countries, as well as receiving the return of Cubans and foreigners living on the island.
Countless citizens have been sharing hashtags on social media such as #yomequedoencasa, #quedateencasa and #quedateentucasa, urging people to stay at home as much as they can, as a form of self-isolation, so as to limit direct contact with people and to minimize the risks of becoming infected.
Meanwhile, examples of solidarity have come to light which have won the admiration of the online community, such as several women who are sewing fabric masks of their own accord so they can donate them to people within their communities, especially vulnerable people such as the elderly.
Different diplomatic delegations on the Caribbean island such as the European Union, Spain, Norway, Switzerland and the US, to name a few, have sent their staff home to work to ensure that they are able to continue with their duties, but they have canceled most processes, visits to their embassies and cultural events that normally take place.
Many privately-run businesses such as the Grados restaurant and Cafe Solas, announced that they would close as a precautionary measure, although others such as Juanky’s Pan Cafe, have chosen to reinforce hygiene and cleaning practices in the places where they offer their services.
Projects such as MaterClub and OM Meditation have postponed events. While the Akokan project, in Havana’s Los Pocitos neighborhood, shared its Action Plan in response to the current situation and an interesting article about the decision-making process.
Dozens of Cuban artists, such as pianist Chucho Valdes, and singers Eme Alfonso, William Vivanco and David Blanco, have joined the international initiative to offer music downloads on the internet to show their solidarity with victims of the pandemic and to contribute towards the cultural entertainment of those who are staying at home.
This comes in spite of restricted access to the Internet due to low connection speeds in Cuba, and most of the population’s scarce means to consume products via streaming or to watch a feature movie live.
This effort emerged after March 13th when the Ministry of Culture canceled every show by national or international artists, so as to avoid crowds and to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
Another initiative called Cine Cubano en Cuarentena was born on March 15th, which is a page on Facebook where different filmmakers and young Cuban directors have decided to post some of their productions and film archives so that people can enjoy them for free from their homes.
The Jesus Company in Cuba announced its decision to stop meetings and events at the Loyola Centers across the nation.
It also asked its communications department, the staff working on the Vida Cristiana magazine and I.T. engineers, to help and find a way to inform, guide, train and to keep us connected with faith and solidarity with all of the Church and the Cuban people.
The Incuba Empresas project announced that its activities would be postponed at least until late March, although it also warned that it would continue to collaborate and back the training of business owners by giving advice sessions on Whatsapp.
In the meantime, the CubaEmprende project, based at the Catholic Padre Felix Varela Cultural Center, shared some tips on its Facebook page about how to deal with this business crisis by using tools linked to creative marketing.
The Cuban Christian Center of Reflection and Dialogue, based in the city of Cardenas, Matanzas, published an open letter in which it confirmed its willingness to cooperate with everything it can, while it rescheduled its event program for the year, paying special attention to people in a vulnerable psycho-social situation.
It also added that it is activating its Community Emergency Program “seeking out the material resources that help to relieve the disastrous effects of this illness, with a special emphasis on prevention and follow-up actions.
The Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Monsignor Dionisio Garcia, delivered a message of faith and hope in light of the current national epidemiological situation. And Monsignor Emilio Aranguren, bishop of Holguin and president of the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, invited Cubans to keep calm, to not lose faith and to be careful.
With regard to Santa Semana, which is scheduled for between April 15th and 12th, Aranguren insisted that any change “can be announced during Sunday mass on March 29th.
The National Office of Ignaciana Youth Pastors in Cuba has canceled all activities scheduled for the next few months.
The workshop about Social Doctrine within the Church, which was scheduled to take place between March 20th and 22nd at the Ciego de Avila diocese, in the center of the country, was also canceled. Furthermore, the National Evangelization and Social Media Conference which was to be held at the Priests’ Residence, from March 27th and 29th and with speakers from all over the country, has also been postponed.
Different Catholic Centers for Complimentary Education in Havana have agreed to cancel their events for the time being so they can safeguard their students’ health.
Meanwhile, the Cuban Islamic League closed the Abdallah Mosque in Havana until further notice.