Cuba: Diary of an Island

Photo: David López Cruz

Text and Photos by David Lopez Cruz (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – The spread of COVID-19 in Cuba has radically changed everything. We are still adapting to a “normality” in which the mask has become the most used and necessary garment.

Always during May, 2020 and 2021, I documented my experience with this pandemic while serving as a volunteer in an isolation center on the outskirts of the city of Matanzas.

Solidarity grew among the volunteers.

The so-called Red Zone was a field hospital created in the student residences of the University of Matanzas, one of the epicenters of the pandemic in Cuba. People sick with COVID-19 were isolated there. I was part as a volunteer, along with other mostly young university students, of the support group for doctors and nurses.

The volunteers did not have any type of link with medicine, we were in charge of the hygiene of the hospital and the distribution of food, both to the medical team and to the patients. There I learned about the tremendous work carried out by these true heroes, people who constantly risk their lives and make enormous sacrifices such as not seeing their loved ones for months.

Seriously ill patients were transferred to the Military hospital at any time.

In May 2020, only patients suspected of COVID-19 were received and people worked for 14 days and then 14 days under surveillance: 28 days in total away from home, with frequent PCR tests. Although the place was always kept at maximum capacity, in May 2021 we were only receiving infected patients and the rhythm was more intense: we worked seven days in a row and rested in seclusion for another seven.

The spread of the disease caused people of all ages and social sectors to pass through these centers, including many elderly.

Now that those buildings where we received so many patients have returned to function as student residences, I cannot avoid, when I pass by on my way to my classes, the memory of those elderly people thanking and applauding from their windows.

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