HAVANA TIMES – The process of easing the lockdown in Cuba, seems to be paralyzed in the capital, the only one of the island’s 15 provinces that is still in the first phase of the three recovery phases outlined by the government.
With partial lockdowns and quarantine in some neighborhoods and communities due to cases of local transmission or hotspots of infection, Havana and Artemisa province are at the heart of the country’s COVID-19 concerns.
Havana governor, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar, announced to the local press that irregularities and protocol violations had been detected in the active research of vulnerable groups and delays in getting in touch with people who had been in contact with people testing positive for the virus.
The situation in the capital is limiting the application of a series of measures that are expected as part of the third phase of recovery, such as the reestablishment of regular flights that most of the population is waiting for, whether it’s to start up on commercial trips outside Cuba again, or to welcome family and friends.
Meanwhile, official press has stressed civic irresponsibility as the cause of new outbreaks.
There are still crowds of people looking for food and other basic essentials – because of shortages and the economic decline even before the pandemic hit -, and this continues to be the main concern for keeping infections in check.
IPS-Cuba summarizes the main events linked to COVID-19 during the period of easing the lockdown, as well as the measures implemented to keep it under their control.
July 1: The mediCuba-Suisse organization and the Swiss Embassy in Cuba announce a donation of half a million Swiss francs to the Ministry of Public Health in order to support efforts to fight COVID-19 on the island.
This financial aid will be used to buy ventilators, to mass produce a local prototype, to buy reagents for diagnosis tests and PPE for health personnel in labs and hospitals.
July 3: Havana enters the first of the three phases in the first stage of recovery, after the rest of the country.
On the same day, the government receives a donation of 15,000 surgical masks to help health professionals, from three Vietnamese doctors who graduated in the Caribbean country. The association of Cubans living in China donated another 10,000 masks for the same purpose.
July 7: An event of local transmission is recorded in the Pilar Atares neighborhood, located in the capital’s Cerro municipality, which led to the decree of an 8 PM curfew for four blocks in the Abel Santamaria health area.
The next day, a similar measure was applied to 10 blocks in Lawton, in the Diez de Octubre municipality, where almost 7,000 inhabitants live, to keep this outbreak of the virus under control.
July 8: The western province of Matanzas enters the second phase of the recovery plan.
July 16th: The government announces that, as of July 20th, the country will gradually move into the third phase of recovery, with the exception of Mayabeque province (in phase 2) and Havana (in phase 1).
These two provinces have been recording positive cases in the past 15 days, while other provinces have managed to go 28 days (two incubation periods for the virus) without any new cases.
July 22: A case of local transmission is reported in two neighborhoods in the city of Bauta, Artemisa province, which borders Havana municipalities. A lockdown has been decreed in an area of 237 blocks where over 28,500 people live, and the main beaches and every bar in the province have been closed.
This case was due to a religious event that was held on July 10th, which 24 persons participated in, said local authorities.
Linked to this incident, a new event of local transmission was reported on July 28th in the Baracoa district of the same municipality and a lockdown was also ordered for this community.
As we post this article there the new outbreak in Bauta has resulted in 75 positive cases.
July 24: Cuba now figures on the list of the 18 countries that the UK government deems safe, because of the way they handled the pandemic and where British citizens can now travel.
July 29: President Miguel Diaz-Canel met in Havana with members of the Henry Reeve medical brigade, who helped to fight COVID-19 in Turin, Italy and in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
To date, 42 brigades have left the island and traveled to 35 counties for the same reason, and 39 of these brigades are still abroad composed of over 3000 health professionals.
A new event of local transmission was also reported in Havana’s La Lisa neighborhood, and a hotspot of infection has been identified at the Santa Felicia neighborhood in Marianao municipality, which on August 1st became an event of local transmission with over 10 positive cases.
July 30: Havana’s Defense Council announced a plan to step up measures in order to control the COVID-19 situation in the province.
This includes boosting the active investigation component according to the municipal risk hierarchy (extremely high at risk, high risk and medium risk) and increasing the number of PCR and swab tests being carried out.
What defines progress for a province before moving to a new phase?
Health authorities have outlined five indicators to assess the epidemiological situation in every region:
– Infection rate (new cases among the exposed public): the province must display a downward trend, comparing the last 15 days to the 15 days before them.
– The effective reproduction number, identified as Rt (average number of new cases caused by one infected individual): Phase I: Rt up to 1, Phase II: Rt less than 1 Phase III: Rt less than 0.95.
– Percentage of active cases vs. confirmed cases: 5% or less for Phase O, 3% or less for Phase II and only 1% for Phase III.
– Percentage of positive cases with a known infection source: Phase I: 90%, Phase II: 95% and Phase III: 98%
– In events of local transmission, qualitative datais looked at to see the spread of cases and whether these can be controlled.