By Mayté Solano Gómez
Just like in most countries today, Cuba is dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic since late 2019. But there are other things going on on the island, related to the political and the economic and monetary systems.
Find here updated information about what’s going on during this pandemic time in Cuba.
What happened in Cuba as the Coronavirus pandemic started
The first people infected with Covid 19 in Cuba were detected in Trinidad, on March 11th 2020. They were 3 tourists from Italy. But Cuban government had already announced sanitary measures to prevent the spread of the disease on the island and avoid the collapse of the health care system.
Note: On March 13, the Ministry of Culture postponed or suspended all mass events and art shows in cinemas, theatres, music houses and recreational centres, as well as dance events and concerts.
By the end of March, the Cuban government announced some regulations to control entry to the island and, at the beginning of April, the complete closure of the borders.
In June, sanitary measures had been so successful that the first stage of recovery started in almost the whole country, except for Matanzas and Havana. These two provinces entered this phase before the 3rd of July.
On July 20th all the regions, excepting Matanzas and Havana again, were in the 3rd phase of recovery, almost in what is known as ‘new normal’.
In August, however, new restrictive measures were adopted in Havana, such as the suspension of public transportation, the complete closure of the beaches, bars, restaurants and parks. By the end of September, Havana entered the 3rd phase of recovery and the rest of the provinces reopened all their schools.
In November 2020, the Cuban government reopened officially its borders. The Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba (IACC) announced that commercial and charter air operations would resume at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana and the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Cuba allowed the return of Cuban residents to the national territory, exceptionally even if their passports had expired. International tourism also restarted.
The second wave of the pandemic time in Cuba
From my point of view, the opening of the border brought with it what had happened in the whole world: a new coronavirus outbreak, that led to the return of restrictive measures and limitations on flights coming to Cuba. Quarantine in specific facilities on arrival in Cuba, not in the community, was restored.
From January 2021, the number of covid related infections and deaths increased enormously. To get clearer idea, at the beginning of December 2020 the average number of daily infections was under 100, whilst by May 2021 it had risen over 1000.
Although these numbers are lower than in the majority of countries, for Cubans this is not satisfactory.
Cuban achievements during the coronavirus pandemic
Cubans have fought the coronavirus with all their energy, supported by their political and social system. That’s why they point to their actions and achievements during this pandemic time in Cuba so proudly.
The British cruiser MS Braemar
The British cruise ship MS Braemar docked in a Cuban port on May 16, 2020, for humanitarian reasons, after their request for help was rejected by several Caribbean islands. It carried, among the 682 passengers and 381 crew members, at least 5 persons with coronavirus.
To guarantee the safety of aerial evacuation, Cuba mobilized transportation and human resources and followed strictly the sanitary measures established in the protocols from the Cuban Public Health Ministry and the World Health Organization regarding Covid-19.
The Henry Reeve brigade
The Henry Reeve Brigade is a Cuban group of medical professionals with the mission of assisting countries with health crises. It was created in 2005. In 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic, it assisted for the first time a country in Europe: Italy.
They have also offered their solidarity to Guinea Bissau, Qatar, Perú, Mexico, Sierra Leona, Kenya and Kuwait. Consequently, the Henry Reeve brigade was nominated in 2020 for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Cuban labs for processing coronavirus tests
At the beginning of the pandemic in Cuba, there were only 4 labs on the island to process the samples, in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Villa Clara.
Now there are 27 labs for the analysis of samples and studies of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. There is at least 1 lab in every province, including the special municipality Isla de la Juventud, and 11 in Havana, the capital of the island.
The vaccination candidates and people’s immunization
One of Cuba’s greatest achievements is its biopharmaceutical industry and the 5 vaccines for immunization against Covid-19 developed in the island prove its: Soberana 01, Soberana 02, Mambisa, Abdala and Soberana Plus.
During the first months of the pandemic time in Cuba, some drugs such as recombinant Interferon Alpha 2B, produced in Cuba, were included in the protocol for the treatment of the coronavirus.
Cuba turns out to be the first Latin-American country with its own vaccine against Coronavirus. By August 2021 the 70% of the Cuban population will be immunized.
What about travels during this pandemic time in Cuba?
International airports and ports in Cuba remain open to travellers arriving on the island, but restrictions are still in place.
For international travellers, 5 days of quarantine are still mandatory, at least until June. In Cuba, the mask (known on the island as nasobuco) is mandatory at all times and failure to comply with this recommendation is punished with a fine.
On arrival in Cuba, visitors must present the results of an RT-PCR for SARS Cov-2 from a certified laboratory in the country of origin, carried out in the last 72 hours. Upon arrival, all travellers must pay to undergo another PCR test at the airport and another one during the quarantine. Travellers will only be able to end the isolation period when they have the negative result of the second PCR done in Cuba.
CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) doesn’t exist anymore, so you will need CUP (Cuban pesos), although we recommend you carry as much of your own currency as you can. A credit card is also necessary. Due to the difficult economic situation in Cuba and the monetary adjustments, you could be asked to pay for services with American Dollars, Euros or Sterling Pounds.
You should be aware that by paying with USD, Euros or Sterling Pounds, you make a great contribution to the economic wellbeing of ordinary Cubans.
For Cuban residents returning to the island, new measures will be implemented from June 5th. Those who arrive through the tourist poles will have to isolate in the province of arrival. Their quarantine extends to 7 days, instead of 5 for other visitors, and they’ll pay for accommodation and transportation.
Anyway, after the quarantine period and with a negative test result for Coronavirus, tourists and residents in Cuba can travel throughout the island. In Havana, the options are truly varied and safe.