Government authorities have a step-by-step plan, but very little information is known about what the next phase will be like.
HAVANA TIMES – With institutional cases spiking, leading to dozens of new people sick and drawing out the pandemic, Cuba is already outlining some post-COVID actions, mainly in the education sector, which had canceled the rest of this school year by March 23rd.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 11th, when the government began to gradually shut down activities, and it eventually closed the border on March 24th.
Little or nothing has been said, at least in local media, about reopening sectors such as public and interprovincial transport – i.e. buses, trains and the few national air routes -, the border and getting tourism going again.
Nothing has been said about how long people will work from home still either, as insufficient means of public transport create large crowds and don’t allow for the physical distancing that is needed post-pandemic.
Hopes of coming out of the lockdown by the end of May have been shattered, especially now with an explosion of new cases after a case of local transmission at Havana’s La Epoca store, which spread to two other state-run centers, AICA drug laboratories and the Ministry of Domestic Trade’s Transport Company.
Over the past 16 days, between May 28th and June 6th, a total of 180 new cases were reported in the province of Havana alone, which is now the epicenter. Many of these cases were linked to institutional events, according to the Ministry of Public Health’s daily briefings.
According to president Miguel Diaz-Canel, during the daily meeting of the temporary COVID-19 task force, this has led to postponing the moment when the country would enter its recovery phase.
Nevertheless, measures adopted for the education sector during the pandemic, which will continue after it ends, as well as others that stipulate how some schools will work, have already been revealed.
IPS Cuba has compiled some of the regulations adopted by the Ministry of Education for the recovery phase.
– At day care, shoes will be sprayed with disinfectant and hands will be washed with water and soap whenever anyone enters. Children will be checked by health professionals and family members won’t be allowed into classrooms.
– Even though wearing a mask remains at the family’s discretion, children will have to have a few in their student bag, so they can be changed every two or three hours.
– In order to prevent overcrowding in these centers, every space, room and outdoors area will be used, to carry out educational activities and to safeguard the cognitive development of young children, and role play.
– The entry time in the morning has been extended until 9 AM, and this will be the same for all institutions. Leaving times will be staggered after 3 PM, depending on families’ needs, so as to prevent crowding.
– Pandemic control will be given top priority, exhanging information with families about the local COVID-19 situation, days of intensive cleaning, cleaning tanks and outdoor areas.
Primary, secondary and preuniversity schools
– The academic year will start again in September, although courses will continue to be taught via televised classes.
– The Ministry of Education is preparing changes to study plans for the 2020-2021 academic year, which will begin once the current academic year (2019-2020) ends.
Other education centers
– Students of laborer and farmer schools have had the chance to receive the basic materials they need to finish the semester and, when announced, will pick up where they left off and do the exams they need to.
– Once back at classes, content will be systematized for three weeks, another three for final exams and two for course preparation and graduation.
– Language schools – a total of 112 across the country and 65 additional classrooms -, where foreign languages such as English, French, Portuguese, Russian, German, Italian and Chinese are taught, will start from the beginning, depending on the level the student was enrolled in before classes ended.
Getting back to normal, psychological warnings
According to psychologist Barbara Zas, getting back to normal which people long for, “will be different”.
She believes that we will have to hold onto lessons learned during this time, about self-care, hygiene habits, the responsibility of being accountable for your own health and that of your family’s.
“We aren’t doing anything positive when they tell us we can go back outside and we do this without taking proper hygienic measures, like has happened in other places, and infections have soared again,” she insisted.
Zas also stressed that “it isn’t about living with fear, but knowing that we are still in a complicated epidemiological situation: I can’t jump on people, or hold dirty hands with each other. We need to get back to our every day lives, taking painstaking efforts to look after our health.”