President calls for ‘extreme measures’ as virus surges again

11 January 2021, Issue 1080

President Díaz-Canel has called on Cubans to exercise greater responsibility to drastically reduce the spread of a third outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which is reported to have reached a new peak.

Leading a meeting of the country’s high level ‘Temporary Working Group for the prevention of COVID-19’, Díaz-Canel said that between 70 and 80% of Cubans now testing positive were linked to imported cases brought into the country by “travellers”, the expression being used to define Cubans living overseas as opposed to tourists. 

Referring to “growing concern in the population”, Cuba’s President spoke about “the violation of hygienic-sanitary measures and the non-respect of physical distancing and social isolation during the end of the year parties in which international travellers or their contacts participated”. Cuba, he said, now had to rapidly introduce “extreme measures”.

Cuba’s state media reported that at the 7 January meeting, the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, told provincial governors participating virtually that severe measures would be introduced and that many provinces and municipalities would be returned to earlier pandemic recovery stages. This, he said, would require them to rigorously contain the situation.

The new regressive classifications apply in different ways to seven of Cuba’s fifteen provinces and to many municipalities. These include Villa Clara and the Santa Clara municipality; Matanzas and the municipality of Matanzas; Mayabeque and the municipality of Güines; Artemisia; the municipality of Santiago de Cuba; Guantánamo and the municipality of Guantánamo. In the provinces of Las Tunas and Camagüey the working group meeting noted several municipalities would regress if the upward trend in infections was not reversed.

In the case of Havana, the province and all its municipalities will return to phase I of the recovery (it was in phase III). It was announced that, in addition, incremental measures will be implemented in the municipalities of Plaza de la Revolución, Centro Habana, Habana del Este, Habana Vieja, Cerro, La Lisa, Boyeros and 10 de Octubre, in such a way as to allow the rapid control of the epidemiological situation.

At a subsequent meeting of Havana’s Provincial Defence Council recognised the urgency of increasing the perception of danger among citizens by all possible means and agreed to analyse further measures ‘taking into account that in the city there is less lethality, but viral circulation has grown’.

Speaking on Cuban television, the National Director of Epidemiology at Cuba’s Ministry of Health, Dr Francisco Durán, indicated that that a gradual change in the epidemiological trend was beginning to be seen and the number of imported cases was now declining. 

He said that since the number of flights to Cuba had been cut from the US, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas (See the Americas below and Cuba Briefing 4 January 2021) the number of ‘travellers’ entering Cuba daily averaged 1,400, compared to the more than 5,000 reached on peak dates in December.

He however predicted that the numbers of new cases would remain high for a while yet reflecting year-end festivities, but that Cuba would again bring the disease under control as it did in 2020. 

Durán reported that 3,479 people remained in Cuban hospitals of whom 746 were active cases, 946 suspected and 787 under epidemiological surveillance. By global per capita standards Cuba’s death and infection rates remain very low. The figure recorded at the end of December was the highest for any month since the start of the epidemic.

The meeting confirmed that schools would remain open and that all economic activity across the country that was functioning normally would continue. At an earlier meeting to discuss the pandemic, Vice Prime Minister Roberto Morales was reported to have confirmed that the national increase in infections was not associated with hotels in tourist centres or foreign tourists.

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