HAVANA TIMES – Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) informs that starting January 10, 2021, “all international travelers to Cuba must have a PCR-RT negative result certification for SARS Cov-2. The test must be taken within 72 hours before travel at an accredited testing center in the country of origin.
The document sent by Minsap to the PAHO/WHO National Liaison Center explains the measure. It is the result of the international epidemiological situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It further notes the high percentage of imported cases detected with the reopening of Cuban International airports.
The document states the measure won’t affect the current hygienic-sanitary measures implemented at airports. Likewise, the protocol followed with all international travelers remains the same.
The notification was confirmed by the CAFE Travel & Services agency. They sent their clients a WhatsApp message on the negative result certification requirement prior to travel to Cuba starting 2021.
For weeks Cubans have shown concern about imported cases and the COVID-19 spread after the border reopening. The positive cases confirmed of international travelers or their contacts, have increased in Cuba by 75%.
In a publication by Minsap to answer questions about International Health Control, they explained that Cuba hadn’t been requiring PCRs. The reason being “the technological limitation faced by many countries to ensure their travelers PCR results in the required period. This could limit trips to Cuba. Another reason is the high costs to pay for a PCR test in those countries in order to travel”.
They recognized the requirement was a measure under analysis. Moreover, they added that “many countries lack molecular biology laboratories to carry out massive scale tests. They need to send their samples to other countries for analysis, making more difficult the waiting time for results”.
The country of origin with the highest number of infected people is the United States. But numerous infected persons have also been reported from Mexico, Panama, Haiti and Spain.
Given the significant increase in imported or associated cases, December could have the highest number of infections since the pandemic began in Cuba.
The violation of sanitary protocols is an everyday issue
Through December 21, of the 1,852 COVID-19 cases from travelers reported since March, 69.4% (1,286) was reported in the last two months, It coincides with the main airports reopening.
The National Program of International Sanitary Control includes: The delivery of Sanitary Statement for Traveler´s (DSV in Spanish). The fulfillment of the epidemiological surveillance of travelers. The mobility of travelers during the first 10 days. The application of two PCR tests- one upon entry and the other one on the fifth day. Even so, the increase in cases with source of infection abroad and in contact with travelers show repeated violation of protocols. All of this has led to the spread of Covid-19 throughout the national territory.
Among the main irregularities detected are: The forging of information in the DSV. The holding of parties with family, friends and neighbors. The violation of quarantine by travelers and relatives at homes. The incorrect use of protection means or disrespect of the sanitary measures established at homes. Non-compliance by the health authorities of the 24 to 48 hours’ period for the first PCR results delivery. The lack of follow-up by the primary health care area; among others.
Several travelers have been reported in criminal proceedings for the spread of the epidemic. These in the provinces of Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Villa Clara, Pinar del Río and Sancti Spiritus.
According to various press reports, a high percent of infections has been detected after international travelers have taken the second PCR.
In Havana, since the reopening of José Martí International Airport on November 15, the number of COVID-19 infections has grown considerably. Several of the outbreaks and disease controls in other provinces are also associated with the arrival of international travelers.
According to a Cuban News Agency report, Camagüey has registered, since the start of the pandemic, 186 infected- 88 autochthonous and 98 imported. Of cases with a source of infection abroad, 50% were diagnosed in the second PCR.
The Cuban authorities have reiterated that for economic reasons Cuba cannot close its borders. Therefore, it is necessary to demand compliance with sanitary protocols to prevent outbreaks and control the disease.