What Cuba Residents Are Being Told About Coronavirus

While no cases have yet been reported on the Caribbean island, national health authorities repeat that protective measures should be taken and urge the population to follow hygiene/sanitary control measures.

By IPS-Cuba

Different scientific research centers in Cuba are working on a potential vaccine and a biosensor that detects the virus quickly, minister Jose Angel Portal has said. Photo: Jorge Luis Banos/ IPS

HAVANA TIMES – The new coronavirus has spread across the border of over 100 countries, 12 of which are in the Americas. Faced with this new threat, Cuban authorities have decided to finetune health protocols and response, although they have announced that no cases have yet been reported.

COVID-19, the illness caused by the latest outbreak, was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

The most common symptoms are fever and fatigue, accompanied by a dry cough and, in some cases, shortness of breath, a runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea.

While the way this illness spreads from person-to-person is still being researched, the World Health Organization has indicated that the greatest risk comes from being in contact with an infected person, when they cough or breathe.

Real and fictitious risks

Concerns of the global scientific community and population include just how quickly this virus is spreading, which can be deadly in some cases.

According to experts, the elderly, people with a weakened immune system or diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or other underlying health conditions, are the most vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19 worldwide. The Cuban health system is keeping a close eye on these people. Photo: Jorge Luis Banos / IPS

However, international health authorities announced that 80% of cases of the virus show only mild symptoms, and that the death rate is only 2% [actually quite high].

While no vaccine or specific drug currently exists, symptoms can be treated with medical supervision without any complications, and more serious cases will be treated in hospitals.

The most vulnerable groups, with the highest death rate, are the elderly, people with a weakened immune system or diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or other underlying health conditions. They are the most vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19 worldwide.

What is the current situation in Cuba?

After state-controlled media disproved the existence of three cases in the country (a piece of fake news that went viral on social media), Cuban society seems to be less worried, but they are still concerned.

Part of the Cuban population’s fear lies in extreme shortages of medicines and personal hygiene items, which the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants have been suffering in recent months.

In response to these concerns, Jose Angel Portal, Cuba’s minister of Public Health, announced Monday on the TV show Mesa Redonda Informativa that the country has allocated funding for necessary resources in the case of an epidemic, whether this is for medicine, disposable protective clothing or medical equipment.

He also said that they were looking for a way to increase the supply of natural medicine products in pharmacies across the island.

In the case of protective masks, he explained that in addition to the international deficit, the country doesn’t have the resources needed to provide the population with these, so they will share ways on how to create them at home.

Treatment protocol includes the use of Interferon alpha 2B as one treatment option. This drug is developed and manufactured locally and is used to treat viral infections such as Hepatitis B and C, Varicella-zoster virus, HIV/AIDS and dengue fever.

Chinese medical authorities have chosen to use the Cuban drug to fight coronavirus because it is able to make up for Interferon deficiencies produced by the virus in the human body, and strengthen patients’ immune system, official newspaper Granma reported.

Other vulnerabilities in the case of Cuba include its aged population, over 20% are aged 60+, as well as the constant coming and going of travelers.

IPS Cuba compiled some of the measures adopted by authorities until the present, so as to prevent the virus from entering the country and to control the situation if it does eventually spread to the country.

Measures adopted by health authorities

  • Sanitary control and epidemiology checks at borders.
  • Check-ups for all travelers, Cuban or foreign, for 14 days. Once travelers enter the country, they are told to go to local health authorities within 72 hours.
  • A group of hospitals have been selected to monitor and treat patients in every province, with approximately 100,000 beds available across the country.
  • Health institutions have announced that individual checks will be made to treat patients with breathing difficulties.
  • Social institutions that deal with vulnerable groups such as nursing homes, psycho-pedagogical centers and maternity “waiting homes”, will receive special care.
  • Expert groups at research centers to develop treatments and specific drugs. A potential vaccine is currently being studied, as well as a biosensor for the swift detection of the virus, Portal announced.
  • Training for employees in the tourism sector so they follow protocols, this includes the self-employed who run hostels and restaurants.
  • Cuban application about COVID-19 is available on the ApkLis website, with up-to-date information about the virus and the illness it leads to, as well as strategies, indications and regulatory documents Cuba’s Public Health Ministry on the issue.

Recommended measures for the population

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds (A gel can also be used, but it has to be more than 60% alcohol), and avoid touching virus-entry points, such as the mouth, eyes and nose.
  • Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing with the inside of your elbow.
  • Don’t stay in close contact with people who display symptoms of breathing illness.
  • Stay away from busy places.
  • Don’t self-medicate and go to the doctor if any symptoms arise.
  • Double down on these protective measures if you are among vulnerable groups, or if you have been in contact with travelers or people who might be infected with the virus.
  • The World Health Organization advises the use of masks for people who present symptoms, or people looking after them.

6 thoughts on “What Cuba Residents Are Being Told About Coronavirus

  • You should tell us more about Cuba’s Interferon alpha 2B drug which many news sources have said has had remarkable success in lessening the effects of COVID 19 while not eliminating it. It appears that the ‘western world’ other than Italy is not jumping on the chance to ask the Cubans for help distributing and administrating the drug. We need to know more about this treatment and efforts to have the drug distributed around the world.

  • “Check-ups for all travelers, Cuban or foreign, for 14 days. Once travelers enter the country, they are told to go to local health authorities within 72 hours.”

    You have to wait in one of those Cuban lines in the heat while on holiday for a checkup?
    Does not sound super enticing.

  • As of last night it was 4.

  • With regard to this pandemic, the Canadian government is recommending Canadians to not travel on international trips. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today (Friday, March 13/’20) that Canadians restrict international travel. Why?

    His wife, Sophie Trudeau, has a mild case of the COVID-19 virus. Last week she was in Great Britain at a conference and when she arrived back to Canada she began suffering mild flu like symptoms. This propped her to get tested and it was publicly revealed she has the virus. She has self quarantined. The Prime Minister has not contracted the virus but has decided, as an example to all Canadians, to self isolate himself for 14 days and is conducting all national/international affairs from his home.

    For travelers thinking about venturing to Varadero ask yourself whether the Cuban government will provide a foreigner stricken with COVID 19 virus with essential health care when the government is stretched to its budgetary limits to look after its own residents.

    “Treatment protocol includes the use of Interferon alpha 2B as one treatment option.” Sounds good but does it work and what are the long term effects of such medication when it really hasn’t been internationally recognized. All international doctors and medical experts state that there is no current vaccine to cure this disease and that any medication provided has to be experimental in nature and disconcerting despite what “Granma reported.”

    So, for Canadians to travel internationally at this time to a third world country is real risky. This article does a good job in recommending measures for self preservation for any population whether one is in Cuba or Canada.

  • The 3 infected people in Cuba is not fiction

  • My vacation is planned for first week of April. I am still not sure about it but I am watching the situation closely. Really interested to read that Cuban government is asking all the travelers to go to local health authorities within 72 hours.
    How is the crowd there at the health centers, especially Varadero?

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