The Latest Timeline on Cuba’s Tackling of Covid-19

By IPS-Cuba

Havana, which is home to 20% of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants, has recorded around 56% of all positive COVID-19 cases in the country. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños IPS

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.

5 thoughts on “The Latest Timeline on Cuba’s Tackling of Covid-19

  • The significant point made by Nick, is that the buffoon in No. 10 is controlled by an ill-qualified advisor of well deserved ill repute. What a job, being Boris’s puppet master!
    The last photograph that I saw in the Canadian media of the Boris the buffoon, was of him in conversation with a large crab in Orkney – even the crab looked bemused.

  • Nick,
    A slight caveat here. It is England that has done abysmally badly. The Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments have done a pretty good job in containing and reducing the death rate to around zero. It has even reduced the overall UK rate which would be even worse otherwise. The first cases were discovered in the UK and Ireland at the same time, yet Ireland has managed so much better. You can’t read the facts any other way than the fact that the buffoon in No 10 has completely ballsed it up from start to finish.

  • Occasionally I agree with Mr MacD.
    The UK has the highest Covid death rate as a percentage of population of all countries in the world. Although it could be said that Belgium is higher depending on how you crunch the numbers.
    Either way the death rate in the UK is a disaster given that there is what would seem to be the benefit of being islands surrounded by large tracts of water to provide a natural defence. The damage was done early on in that the unelected non-politician who runs the government made a disastrous decision to bet everything on a crank ‘herd immunity’ theory. Weirdly, once the lockdown was introduced this same individual was caught out breaking the lockdown rules that he had come up with himself. He tried denying it at first but was caught red handed. And yet he’s still in the job as ‘advisor’ and he’s still arguably the most powerful individual in the country. Couldn’t make it this sh*t up if you tried…….
    The relevance of this sorry tale is that Mr MacD is correct in that Cuba shouldn’t give tourist visas to UK citizens.
    Other popular destinations allow Brits in. Greece for example. Their economy is also heavily tourism reliant. And there is a pragmatic balance to be struck between tourism revenue and public health.
    But the Cuban authorities should think very carefully before they go dishing out tourist visas to countries with high incidence such as the UK.

  • The province of Artemisa, including the city of Artemisa, was virtually clear of Covid 19, until the religious incident at Bauta adjacent to Havana.

    Whereas, the UK government may have declared it safe for UK citizens to travel to Cuba, it is obvious that with the rampant spread of Covid 19 in the UK following political incompetence, it is not safe for Cuba to receive such visitors – they would be wise not to repeat the folly which resulted of the introduction of Covid 19 by Italian tourists. Cuba ought to currently deny entry for both UK and US citizens.

    Policies ought to minimize risk – it is not possible to deny any.

    The provision of medical services to other countries (and some educational services) is the largest single contributor to the Cuban economy, with revenues exceeding those of tourism, hence the 42 so-called “brigades”, currently supplying services in 35 countries. because tourism levels are now minimal, those sales of medical services are critical.

  • Fighting the virus is like eliminating the Portuguese Warrior medusa off Cuban shores. You can try, but…. it is going to be a long story.

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