Cuba in the time of the coronavirus

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have looked to the most affected great powers and countries for information and to see what measures they are taking. But perhaps we can find some interesting examples from other countries. One of the countries that has always provided good examples outside of the dominant mainstream has been Cuba. What is going on there? What measures have they taken? How have their health system and authorities reacted?

The first cases of the illness in Cuba were diagnosed on March 11. A day earlier, three Italian tourists with respiratory symptoms who had been staying at a guesthouse in the city of Trinidad, in the province of Sancti Spiritus, were identified. They had arrived at Havana airport on March 9. They were admitted to the Pedro Kourí Tropical Medical Institute (IPK) and immediately isolated. They were tested and in 24 hours diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Cuban authorities isolated seven persons who had had contact with the Italians: the bus driver, tour operator, and five persons at the guesthouse where they were staying.

Cuba had already instituted the Novel Coronavirus Plan for Prevention and Control on March 2, regulating and protecting the country’s borders with international health measures at all entry points in order to control the arrival of travellers infected with the coronavirus, as well as ensuring strict compliance with monitoring and control measures over those arriving from infected areas.

Then, on March 6, Cuba updated this Plan for Prevention and Control, adding “epidemiological observation” to travellers coming from countries that had already been infected, such as specific measures like temperature taking and isolation when necessary.

The plan required persons arriving with any symptom to present at an assistance center and follow control measures for 14 days. The prevention and contagion measures were also broadcast to the general public, along with assurances that the country had the necessary means to diagnose the virus and the medicines to treat the illness.

It was also determined that Cuban military hospitals would be used as isolation centers for sick covid-19 patients. On March 12, after the alarm over the diagnoses of the Italian tourists, the public was informed that, through incorporating the military hospitals, there would be 3,100 beds available throughout the country to treat the illness as a first step, including 100 for intensive care, and that specific centers and hospitals in each part of the country would be reserved for isolation and treatment of suspected and confirmed cases. Urgent care centers created special consultation areas for respiratory conditions, and special attention would be given to senior residences and other vulnerable groups.

On March 18, the 11th covid-19 patient was reported in Cuba, a 57 year old Canadian citizen who had arrived at Havana airport on March 14. Of the 10 previously confirmed cases, one had died early that morning and the rest were in stable condition, according to authorities. Cuba has an admitted 356 patients under epidemiological surveillance, of whom 101 are foreigners and 255 Cubans. In terms of primary care, 26,415 persons are under watch.

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