By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Only two days ago we reported records of new Covid-19 positives for Cuba. Now those figures are a thing of the past. On Saturday the new high was 8,853 with 80 deaths in the country of 11.2 million persons.
In comparison, Florida, also spiking with new cases, has a population of 21 million and recorded 10,452 new positives on Saturday with 39 deaths.
As testing apparently increased in the eastern part of the island, Guantanamo is now the most hard-hit province per capita. In one day, the new positive cases shot up from 642 to 1,181. The far eastern province has a population of 511,000.
A first-hand report to Havana Times indicates that the number of sick patients in Guantanamo is probably far greater than had been previously reported. No independent questioning of official data is allowed in Cuba.
Matanzas with 712,000 inhabitants had 1,461 new positives on Saturday, the second most per capita, and Cienfuegos with 407,000 was third with 794 new Covid-19 positives. Havana had 1,481 in a population of 2,129,000.
The Public Health Ministry has warned that the numbers will most likely get worse before they get better. The 80 deaths on Saturday were a new high from the previous 67.
Cuba is also facing a critical food shortage situation. People must wait for hours on end in long crowded lines to try and purchase something to eat at the US dollar stores. Others without that currency must resort to the illicit market at even higher prices.
Failed farm policies have meant agriculture production has been dropping for years and now the government doesn’t have the funds for imports. It had been importing 60-80% of the food sold on the island in its monopoly retail market run mainly by Cimex, the giant military corporation. Private import/sales businesses are not allowed in the state-centered economy.
Meanwhile, even the most basic medicines are absent from pharmacy shelves, not to mention the crisis for chronic illness patients. Many Covid-19 patients are also without the medicines they need, as confirmed by our source in Guantanamo. The government does not allow any private pharmacies to exist on the island.
In both shortages, food and medicine, a popular saying sums up government policy. “No pitchean ni dejan batear” (They don’t pitch or let any one else bat).
A recent decision, after the massive July 11 protests, to allow vacationers to bring in extra food and medicines in their suitcases and not have them penalized or confiscated by Customs, will help some families but won’t scratch the surface of a nationwide problem for the overall population. Also, the number of flights is severely limited due to the pandemic.