HAVANA TIMES – New hotspots and an increase in the number of people infected recently in several Havana municipalities, describe how the COVID-19 pandemic has developed in Cuba, where 13 of the country’s 15 provinces are already in the second phase of the first recovery period.
Havana, which entered the first phase of recovery on July 3rd, has amassed 1369 cases, which represent 56.43% of the total.
Within this context, PCR tests are being carried out more extensively (more than 2000 out of the 3000 carried out every day across the country), swift testing and active tracking, mainly at neighborhoods in the Central Havana, Cerro, San Miguel, Cotorro, Diez de Octubre and Arroyo Naranjo municipalities.
The latest figures indicate that six new cases were reported up until July 11th, making a total of 2426 nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic four months ago, 87 fatalities and 2258 people recovered.
These six positive cases – five of which were asymptomatic – came from Havana: four in Central Havana, one in Cerro and another one in Habana del Este.
The Central Havana municipality, the most densely populated in Cuba, with 45,360 inhabitants in its 3.42 km2, makes headlines once again.
Ever since the start of the pandemic, last March, there have been 161 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a municipal rate of 118.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Over the past 15 days, the municipality has had 15 active cases and two cases of community transmission, according to doctor Aylin Matos, the Public Health director in the region.
In this area, which has seen the longest local chain of transmission in Cuba, the situation has led to thousands of PCR tests and swab tests, especially on the blocks of the Los Sitios and Colon neighborhoods.
Faced with this state of emergency, locals were restricted from going out, people from outside of these blocks weren’t allowed access, the State is monitoring them and all workplaces have been shut down within the area.
“We have to stay at home for 14 days and they have even brought food to our houses,” Juan C. Sosa said.
According to Francisco Duran, the Epidemiology director at the Ministry of Public Health, this strategy has taken into account the area’s complex nature, including the high number of its floating population, at the same time a call was made to increase hygiene measures and raise awareness about the danger COVID-19 poses.
On a visit to the area, deputy prime minister, Roberto Morales, said: “We haven’t managed to cut the chain of local transmission in Central Havana,” and he ordered PCR tests to be carried out “when there is a risk of transmission, even if there aren’t any positive cases.”
The Cerro municipality has rung alarm bells once again, where there have been chains of local transmission which have forced some areas into lockdown, such as the Buenos Aires and Latino neighborhoods.
With a total of 123 positive cases, the neighborhood has reported 22 positive cases in the past two weeks, with known sources of infection and two active controls, which has led to nearly 4000 PCR tests.
In addition to admitting positive cases into isolation centers, actions also include isolating suspected cases, tests in at-risk areas, taking Biomodulina medicine to old people’s residences and carrying out a study of COVID-19 in health professionals.
Also in Cotorro, in Havana’s outskirts, where there have mostly been asymptomatic cases, 3144 PCR tests have been carried out in high-risk areas, over the past 15 days. General measures have been applied to every problematic area: increased tracking and tracing, swab testing and ensuring basic services, and basic food supplies.
At the Lawton section of Diez de Octubre, PCR and swap tests have been carried out on people living on some 26 blocks where recent cases have been detected. Movements have been limited, while in Arroyo Naranjo, measures have been stepped up even though no chain of local transmission has been reported.
Studies in progress
While providing health services, Cuba is also carrying out studies that allow for greater accuracy when treating people who become infected with COVID-19.
Doctor Maria Guadalupe Guzman, head of the Research, Diagnosis and Reference department at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine, said that a group of experts continue to research asymptomatic people, on TV show Mesa Redonda Informativa.
To date, 54.6% of positive cases have been asymptomatic and, over the past 15 days, 72.5% of the new 91 cases didn’t present any symptoms at the time of diagnosis.
Guzman revealed some results from a study on 219 patients with symptoms and 36 asymptomatic people.
“There are people with low positive results at the time, but there are people who continue to test positive with a PCR test after 30 days, and the same has happened with individuals who display asymptomatic infection,” she pointed out.
Another study, based on 27 autopsies of people who died as a result of COVID-19, most of whom were male and between the ages of 73-77 years old, revealed that the direct cause of death was bronchopneumonia, followed by a permeability pulmonary edema, Teresita Montero reported, the head of the development center at the Luis Diaz Soto Central Military Hospital, in Havana.