by Susana Corona Cruz –

Coronavirus in Cuba – if you’re wondering about COVID-19 in Cuba, whether new cases are being reported recently and whether you should abandon, postpone or continue with plans to travel to the island over the next few weeks, this is the blog post you need to read.

The coronavirus reached Cuban shores a few days ago, brought in by a trio of Italian holidaymakers from the region of Lombardy (given that they came directly from the epicentre of the pandemic, they certainly could have stayed at home!). Yet, despite the ringing of alarm bells nationwide throughout the island, Cuba acted promptly to isolate the Italian tourists and put everyone who had been in contact with them into quarantine.

Other preventative measures were taken to ensure foreign arrivals are tracked and monitored by authorities to minimise possible cases of disease-spreading and prevent further spreading and contamination.

How it happened – cases of coronavirus in Cuba

At the moment the trio of Italians tourists from Lombardy who arrived on the island on 9th March and who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 after being tested remain monitored and isolated in the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute in Havana. A fourth Italian traveller in the group tested negative for the virus. They all had been staying in a casa particular in Trinidad, and the casa owners along with everyone else they came into contact with have been put in quarantine and are being monitored at a hospital in Trinidad. So far, they have not shown symptoms.

As of 14th March, the only three confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cuba are the three Italian tourists who remain in hospital are said to be recovering favourably. Aside from that trio of imported cases, there is one Cuban in Villa Clara who recently tested positive (more on this below).

Well-prepared and ready to take swift action

During times of uncertainty and to respond to coronavirus fears, Cuba’s Ministry of Health issued a special statement to reassure nationals (and the world) that the government’s health system was incredibly well prepared to face the threat of the virus, reminding everyone that the country had 3,000 hospital beds and a further 100 beds in intensive care units. They urged everyone to be consistent with hand-washing and to remain calm because out of the 30 travellers admitted to hospital in recent days coming from high-risk COVID-19 zones, all those tested came back negative.

A Cuban illustration published in national newspaper Granma

Cuba proceeded to examine and monitor a total of 139 people suspected of having been in close contact with coronavirus cases or coming from countries where coronavirus cases were present. Out of those initial 139 people monitored, 60 remain in quarantine, 50 of them are travellers and 10 are nationals awaiting test results. The rest all tested negative.

No travel restrictions are in place and Cuba continues to welcome visitors from all latitudes, in fact, the Ministry of Tourism called on potential tourists to continue with their travel plans where Cuba was concerned and not cancel or postpone Cuba holidays as they had strong preventative measures in place and would systemically screen all those arriving from high-risk areas.

Cuba – in desperate need of tourists

The reality is that coronavirus comes at the worst time ever for the Cuban economy, already fragile and crumbling in the aftermath of Trump´s travel restrictions and imposed sanctions. Tourism is its economy’s last clinging hope of recovery and therefore major efforts are being put into showing the world that Cuba is a safe place to be, even in times of coronavirus.

A Cuba casa particular in Trinidad, bedroom of Casa Real 54
A Cuba casa particular in Trinidad, Casa Real 54

Owners of casas particulares in Cuba will be badly hit from the absence of guests over the next weeks, especially following the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cuba. While some are cautious about welcoming foreigners from certain countries in Europe, others are optimistic and trust in the national health system to swiftly screen and identify cases before they have the chance to spread and contaminate others.

The country is actively calling on tourists to come to the country trying to reassure them that they’re effectively containing the disease and should they suspect disease carriers from other countries they will isolate and screen as needed.

Ready and willing

On Saturday, Barbara Cruz, director of Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism’s Marketing department spoke at a press conference in Havana, speaking about the ministry’s preventative measures, presenting the COVID-19 control and prevention plan in the tourism sector and stressing that:

” […] Everyone travelling to Cuba will be well received […] Our country is ready to stop and control this disease”.

She added that the island’s tourism infrastructure continues to operate as normal and offer all services, highlighting the country’s “strong health system” and its capability to respond to .

“Cuba is a safe place in every aspect”

She continued saying that every traveller coming from a high-risk country would be examined onsite upon arrival at the airport and if they showed any symptoms they would be systematically put into isolation for 14 days.

Last minute updates – coronavirus in Cuba

Another case of coronavirus was confirmed in Cuba’s province of Villa Clara yesterday, this time the person diagnosed was a Cuban national married to a Bolivian woman who resided in Lombardy. The woman tested negative now (but 15 days had passed since she had arrived in Cuba, which is enough time for the virus to have gotten out of her system) and the man continues isolated at a hospital in Villa Clara. His condition is stable and his symptoms moderate, authorities say he will recover in a few days. All persons who had been in contact with the couple over the last two weeks have been instructed to self-isolate at home.

Watch this space in our CubaCasa blog for more news regarding the coronavirus in Cuba, we’ll keep updating as news flood in and our close contacts in Cuba reveal more information.