Is Cuba’s Health System Ready for Covid-19?

By Circles Robinson


HAVANA TIMES – The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Cuba is rising extremely fast, and the population – as well as family, friends and compatriots abroad – are quite worried.

Cuba may have hundreds of doctors to contract out to countries in need during the emergency, but the sad reality is that Cuban hospitals are in deplorable conditions, sometimes with limited water, few bed sheets and poor hygiene, not to mention the shortages of medicines and equipment. 

The doctors and nurses, of course, want to serve the population in a humane and efficient way, that’s how they were trained, but appropriate conditions are rarely there.

Yes, facilities are much better for foreigners taking advantage of Cuba’s well-known reputation as a destination for health tourism. However, for ordinary Cubans, who should be the first ones to have quality care, the reality is otherwise.

On March 11, the first 3 cases of Covid-19 in Cuba were announced on the evening government news. By March 22, the number had risen to 35.

A week later, the official figures published on March 30th, showed 170 confirmed cases, 4 dead, 1010 suspected cases and 2,681 hospitalized (including 91 foreigners and 2,590 Cubans).  Over 29,885 more are under surveillance at their homes.

Social distancing is being recommended by Cuban health authorities as one of the ways to prevent contagion. No social isolation stay home order has been issued thus far, but certain businesses including discotheques, swimming pools and gyms were ordered closed while others like bars and restaurants can remain open if they observe the social distancing.

For many people the idea of staying home would seem an impossible challenge, because they must wait in innumerable lines to obtain a small quantity of food or hygiene products when available. 

Now the government says some of those items will be rationed at the neighborhood bodega stores. But it remains to be seen if there will be enough of the most basic products to go around. Frankly, there is no indication that there will be.

The elderly, the most vulnerable to Covid-19, have the additional dilemma of having to line up for hours at the pharmacies when a certain medicine they need is reportedly for sale.

Despite having a national health system open to all citizens with no charge, this very serious global pandemic has clearly reached the Island and quickly spreads.

10 thoughts on “Is Cuba’s Health System Ready for Covid-19?

  • April 10, 2020 at 8:19 am

    To All: Last Flight Out . Myself & Others of Many Nations where Bused To Havana March 25th, Starting March 26th Kept at the Hemmingway Hotel 4 nights, Moved after to a Resort closer to Airport & Near the Canadian Embassy, I Asked Many of these People How Long They Had Been In Cuba. Many Reply,s came back Less Then 15 Days. There Were Few of Us That I Call Cuban Family, Landing in Cuba Long Before Christmas. One Canadian explained how his Visa was run out & he had taken a flight to Mexico, Stayed 2 Months & Traveled to Costa Rica then Returned To Cuba & moved into isolation, This Man was suffering with medical problems. I Now Know I was Kept in the Dark as where Many of us. When Did I personally Learn of Virus 19, On My 62nd Birthday March 13 I will never Forget where I was standing in Cuba, A Canadian Family Tourist explained at City Center Las Tunas for the first Time I had herd what was happening in the World. Many Question That Will Never Be Permitted The Truth. IF I had the Gift that many of you that write your words with ease. I write of Honesty with Difficulty

  • April 9, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    @Robert Lehman
    The folly of the Cuban regime actually encouraging more tourism in February when the effects of the virus were already known, was not merely foolish or erroneous, it bordered on being criminal. Cuba has(d) the advantage of being like New Zealand, an isolated island. Prompt action – as demonstrated by New Zealand, would have minimized the possibility or level of contagion. What prevented the regime from doing so? The greed for hard currency from the capitalist world!
    Like you Robert, I am married to a Cuban but for many more years. I too had to get out in a hurry – no option.
    When we have completed our period of self-isolation, we will still have to remain hunkered down, concerned not merely about our own safety, but more particularly that of our Cuban families endeavoring to meet social distancing, but prevented from doing so be the lack of food supplies, the necessity of almost daily shopping and the dense population in the towns and cities.
    I fear it may be as much as a year before we can return to Cuba.

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