By Ronal Quinones
HAVANA TIMES – In an article I wrote in July I voiced my concern about the claims of Cuba’s victory over Covid-19. “I don’t know whether we’re close to giving the “final blow” to the pandemic, like the government is saying. More so if there are cases like what happened in Bauta or possibly other areas that surround the capital. I don’t believe that people can travel in other provinces, but access roads aren’t being fully controlled. As things are, we will only breathe in peace when the vaccine comes along, at least in the capital.”
Unfortunately, time has proven me right. Despite health authorities’ efforts, social indiscipline and a lack of controls thwarted the apparent end of the pandemic in Cuba.
Violations are pretty much uncontrollable. We were already saying that because of Cuban and Latin Americans’ nature overall. It’s hard for us to respect physical distancing, not touching or occasionally getting together with friends.
Enforcement is the key
That said, the greatest task lies with those responsible for making sure these regulations are respected.
For starters, Havana wasn’t ready to enter the first phase of the recovery process when it was decreed. Every other province had gone weeks without reporting a single new case. However, in the capital it was only one day with 0 cases when the victory bells rang. Now while cases continue to appear, it is very dangerous to relax restrictions.
Furthermore, what had already been established wasn’t being respected either. I myself have traveled on packed buses, like during the busiest of times. The government announced that no more than 15 passengers could stand, but that wasn’t respected. The same thing is happening with private transport: anyone who wants to travel, can.
Controls at territorial borders were worse because that’s where the greatest risk lies. Letting the virus travel back into regions where it no longer existed. Bauta was a perfect example of this, but I have more.
A taxi driver friend tells what he’s seen
A taxi driver friend of mine told me that he traveled from Havana to Granma, and he was only asked for the certificate that stated he took a PCR test and tested negative when he reached Bayamo.
The other day, he told me that he went with his family to visit some relatives in the interior of the country. He said police officers at the control point only greeted him. They only had their temperatures taken on the way back.
That was at least something. But knowing full well that the majority of positive cases are asymptomatic most of the time, it isn’t enough.
Because of things like this not only is Havana worse off. It’s also why cases have appeared in other regions.
Additional restrictive measures take effect in the capital today, including a “curfew” from 7 PM until 5 AM. The government has been hesitant to call it this, but it’s what’s needed. If it had been implemented beforehand, we might have been in a better situation.
With things as they are, there is no need to be out on the street during this time period. I have a feeling that this was happening more and more often. I’ll give you a nearby example. When tropical storm Laura hit the south coast of the western region, and with a blackout in all of Havana, I could see people walking out and about on the street, from my balcony. Not even the strong winds were able to persuade these people to stay at home.
Appealing to awareness and discipline doesn’t cut it
So, that’s enough calling upon people to be aware themselves. That age-old dream of the “new man” can’t be what determines this country’s domestic affairs. Too many people aren’t aware of what’s going on, and they are putting everybody else’s health at risk. Therefore, it’s up to the authorities to put them in their place.
Lockdown measures are good in theory, but if you can’t enforce them they are of little help. The Police have to make sure they are being respected and punish those who violate them. Obviously, what we see on the news is just the tip of the iceberg in this matter. We have to multiply it quite a bit to get the real number of violations that are taking place.
Anyway, I think they are failing short with the 15-day period they were talking about at the time. The disease, we know, that takes at least this long to recover. If it doesn’t get the better of you, you should stay with a “curfew” for at least a month. That’s if we want to bring this dangerous new outbreak to a sudden stop.
Providing the population with supplies is an important challenge. I know there are many places in the country’s interior where essentials are being distributed. This takes place via the rations booklet and even includes chicken. Every household regularly has a spot in line to buy these products. In doing so, it avoids those long lines that we keep seeing everywhere.
Ecommerce has suffered a considered setback, and supplies are already in shortage. As you would expect, when products are available they vanish in seconds.
This is our leaders great challenge now. But I must repeat, to really take effect, the new regulations must be enforced by the authorities.
Blame is routinely passed from high up in the hierarchy, downwards. But we must look within to see whether we are doing what we should be. Awareness is the greatest thing, but reality has proven that a lot of people are not aware. The wish to live life normally again can trump the effort to control the pandemic.
Let’s take some time to see whether these new regulations really serve their purpose. At my home we will be applying them and keeping you up-to-date.