By Ronal Quinones
HAVANA TIMES – As long as the opposite is not proven, the daily figures that Cuba reports officially on the Covid-19 are real. Based on this premise, the work carried out since the appearance of the first cases in March has been good, because almost the entire country is now free of the disease, and the epicenter of infections, Havana, reports fairly low figures for weeks.
Now, even relying on these numbers, it is difficult to give the final blow to the disease, because its characteristics make its control quite complex.
Almost all of Cuba was free of the virus, but a source recently emerged in Bauta, a municipality in the Artemisa province quite close to the capital, and where the necessary measures were obviously not being taken.
I say this because officially Havana should be isolated from the rest of the country, and at least all state transportation was in tune with this restriction, but private drivers are not.
Being close to the capital, there are many inhabitants of Bauta who work in Havana, and after entering the first phase of recovery, they had to return to their jobs, and consequently, travel.
As I was able to confirm on a visit to the departure point for Bauta, near the Frank País Orthopedic Hospital, private transporters carried out their work almost normally. The only difference is that instead of going on the highway, their usual route, they did it on another less trafficked road.
Therefore, for weeks there has been movement of people from one place to another, with the latent danger of contagion at all times.
According to reports, the outbreak originated from a party that took place in Bauta, which was attended by residents of the capital, but even if that party had not existed, inevitably a sick person would emerge as the interprovincial movement is constant.
Here comes the big question, was it impossible to control this? Of course not. Just as the private carriers know of the other less trafficked road, the authorities know it too, and the same controls on the highway should have existed there, so that there was no movement.
It is a major irresponsibility of the drivers who were dedicated to this, but also of the Police, who had to control ALL the access points to the capital. I know there are many, but it is the only way to isolate the virus in some way, and the rest of the country can continue as normal.
To end the virus it is also necessary to control the uncontrollable: the lines at stores. I repeat that I am very surprised that the contagion figures are so low when social distancing is respected so little.
The online stores have had a notable drop in terms of supply, and those who opted for this route have had to join those who never used it, and spend a good amount of their time in lines to buy a few basic food or hygiene products.
Stores in US dollars have just opened, where there is everything, including products that were never on sale in the online stores, but you have to go physically and look for the products, unlike the other, with which you could request a home delivery. In short, another line was added.
Surprisingly, despite the restart of transportation in Havana, so far, it’s not common to see the buses as packed as before.
Many people working from home is also helping, freeing offices from congestion, and therefore without the need to take transportation to go to work.
However, some routes are the same as before (the A50 and those that go to the eastern Havana beaches, for example), but the vast majority have been half empty at all hours of the day, sometimes even with empty seats.
I should clarify here that what has been explained in the media, of limiting people on transport, does not exist. In the most demanded routes, and in the private trucks and cars that I have seen, everyone travels. However, many people are still afraid of contagion, and are not making the same use of public transport, meaning less congestion overall.
This is good news in quotation marks, because it means that many people are visiting friends and family with less frequency. This can help prevent the number of cases from skyrocketing, at least for the moment.
And that’s what I’m concerned about. With the passage of time, and I am thinking in a matter of just days, people will gradually lose their fear of riding a bus, and we could return to the same overcrowded situation.
The only thing that is being complied with almost perfectly is the use of the mask, but since there are many types, that does not rule out contagion either. Most people have masks made of fabric, cloth, and without reinforcement or folds, which protects, but only up to a point. Therefore, the requirement is met, but with an asterisk, so to speak.
Cinemas and theaters are not yet reopening, but cafes, bars and restaurants are already working, and although the state businesses close around six in the afternoon, some private ones are already gaining confidence and are doing so until 10 at night, as I verified by calling several.
Certainly, the allowed open times is not a measure that convinces me, because the same risk exists from 10 in the morning to six in the afternoon as until 10 at night. What must be ensured is that each business complies with the hygiene and social distancing measures. Those who set the rules are the ones who must enforce that.
With the sources of danger I’ve listed, I’m not sure we are so close to giving the “final blow” to the pandemic, as the authorities say. More so if there are situations such as that of Bauta, which I extend to all of the towns that surround the capital.
I am not aware if travel has been reactivated in others, but neither that all access routes to Havana are controlled.
Thus, in the capital, we will only breathe easy when the awaited vaccine appears.