By Mayté Solano Gómez

Cubans are by nature sociable, friendly and hospitable. Even if they have never met you before, they will often greet you with a kiss, a hug or a handshake and invite you to come to their house and meet their family.With the appearance of the Coronavirus it has become necessary to change their ways … or at least that’s what Cubans are trying to do.

What has changed for Cubans?

First, they have had to give up kisses, hugs and handshakes. At the beginning of the appearance of Covid 19 in Cuba it was strange to see friends not knowing how to greet each other. Hence, the greeting with the elbows or forearms was adopted …Clearly, physical contact is essential.

On the other hand, there is an almost total ban on visits to the houses of acquaintances and friends. Many Cubans now have locks on their gates or have put up posters urging everyone to stay at home. It is also difficult for families who cannot visit each other, so they have started to communicate by phone, What´sApp or Messenger …

Everyone has had to get used to wearing the suffocating ‘nasobuco’. This means of protection makes it difficult for Cubans to be their usual chatty selves, which can be very frustrating and also increases the feeling of suffocation that is no doubt shred by people all over the world. Even so, Cubans have put their inventiveness and ingenuity into creating nasobucos from home, with an amazing varitey of shapes and colors.

What measures have been taken by the Government of Cuba?

The Covid 19 Confrontation Plan in Cuba involves 3 distinct stages:

1. Pre-epidemic, or phase one: This concerns confirmed cases of travelers from affected countries, or local cases that have occurred because of contacts with those travelers.

2. Limited indigenous transmission: Cases are confirmed in which direct links with travelers from affected areas have not been established. It is almost always limited in scale; a locality in the country, a particular institution or center.

3. Epidemic: The most complex stage. Cases without links to travelers are detected and confirmed, cases increase throughout Cuba and peaks occur in the pandemic curve.

Among the main measures adopted by the Government of Cuba are:

• Regulation of entry across borders

• Tax breaks in some areas of the economy

• Easing of credit conditions to affected companies and self-employed persons

• Increased epidemiological surveillance through active research in community centers and houses

• Adjustments in urban and inter-provincial passenger transportation, both by land, sea and air

• Suspension of classes at all educational levels and th introduction of distance learning

• Encouraging working from home whenever possible

• Postponment of the collection of charges for electricity, water and gas services for the moment, except for those that can be carried out electronically.

•Closure of all restaurants and cafeterias, except for a limited take away service

The objective is to halt the advance of Covid 19, in order to protect the health of the population and minimize the impact of this disease, both socially and economically, especially as nobody knows how long the crisis will last.

What are the Cuban people doing?

It has not been easy for Cubans to adapt to this situation of containment and isolation, amid an increasing and worrying shortage of basic products. The authorities have repeated their call for self-discipline to avoid potentially harmful crowds

The President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, indicated strict measures will be taken against those who continue to defy the measures that the country has taken against COVID-19, a disease that already caused 1,137 cases and 38 death in Cuba .”

Normal everyday life is being maintained as far as possible, although the police are ready to interevene to make sure that the social distancing rules, required to avoid contagion, are respected.

What about Cubans Casa owners?

Despite the travel restrictions, thousands of tourists remain on the island, a few hundred of them in private homes. However, most landlords in the country have been forced to close their businesses, due to the lack of tourists and the adoption of measures to deal with the coronavirus.

After initial uncertainty and adjustments (having to lay employees off and requesting a temporary postponement of tax payments), the owners of private homes in Cuba are concentrating on getting their properties ready to welcome tourists again as soon as the situation improves sufficiently.

To sum up

Cubans have come to terms with the need to adapt to the new social distancing regulations which will enable the country to overcome the deadly threat of Covid 19. They wear face masks, work from home when posible, take part in health screenings and look after vulnerable people such as the elderly or single pregnant women. They also come to their windows and balconies every evening at 9pm to warmly applaud the country’s doctors, nurses and all those putting themselves at risk to protect us, Cubans and foreigners alike.