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Cuba and the CoronaVirus Pandemic
Corona Virus cases as of May 12, 2020: 1804 Cases Confirmed, 667 under observation, 1148 patients, and less than 100 deaths. Cuba travel currently suspended until further notice. 

Cuba Noticias

Cubans are deep in the CoronaVirus journey with us and with a unique set of factors that make their situation in some ways better, and in other ways worse than ours. My friends and contacts there are telling me that there are widespread food shortages that are causing more concern than the actual virus itself and it seems now more people are afraid of not having enough to eat than they are of contracting CoronaVirus.

My contacts there tell me there have been very few cases in Trinidad, Cuba and that as of a few nights ago, everyone was out in the streets again and life was returning to some semblance of socialization. I’m waiting for new updates on that daily, but I can tell you they are ready to open and hungry to see travelers return to fill their pockets with cash so they can feed their families again, and feel alive again. Cubans are highly social people, and for them to be disconnected from each other and their income source/tourism at the same time has a big impact.

Cuba’s response to CoronaVirus was quick, strong and dedicated. I was there on the ground in Trinidad, Cuba when it all began, and I seriously considered staying to weather the storm because I felt that Cuba might be a safer place than the USA in many ways. Many of my readers might find that shocking, but there are valid and real reasons for my rationale.

Cuba’s history of managing pandemics and medical crisis is solid. If you want to get a great insight into that, click here for an article that goes in depth to how Cuba has managed historically. For a small country, Cuba has been leading on their treatment regimen with over 20 different medications, most notably the infamous Interferon Alpha 2B, that they have been using to treat Covid and a community based approach that has kept them with much lower death and transmission rates than many countries.

While I was there within a matter of days from the first case in Trinidad, nurse stations and testing centers were set up on almost every part of Trinidad. I was informed by a nurse close by that if I heard anyone coughing or presenting symptoms, or if I had symptoms, I could go basically a few steps away from my home and get a consult or advise them of a potential infection and I would receive care in home and support nurses to monitor the situation. When I returned to the USA, I couldn’t even get in to see a Dr or a nurse, and not one person would consider coming to my house to check on me, not even my friends or family because of their fears.

Cuba has several advantages over many states, including free universal healthcare, the world’s highest ratio of doctors to population, and positive health indicators, such as high life expectancy and low infant mortality. Many of its doctors have volunteered around the world, building up and supporting other countries’ health systems while gaining experience in emergencies. A highly educated population and advanced medical research industry, including three laboratories equipped and staffed to run virus tests, are further strengths.

Also, with a centrally planned, state-controlled economy, Cuba’s government can mobilise resources quickly. Its national emergency planning structure is connected with local organisations in every corner of the country. The disaster-preparedness system, with mandatory evacuations for vulnerable people such as the disabled and pregnant women, has previously resulted in a remarkably low loss of life from hurricanes.


Add to that an unarmed public that won’t be taking to the streets with guns and creating worse problems from an already bad situation, and perhaps you can begin to understand my thinking. In addition, Cubans tend to work together in crisis and they have decades of experience enduring difficult situations, so they approach crisis and challenge with a much different attitude than Americans as a whole.

However, there are other real factors to consider that are concerns: food shortages and total economic devastation are bound to have massive impacts on the psyche and the day to day life there. One of my friends told me on WhatsApp that some people are already in Special Period conditions eating bread and drinking sugar water to keep their energy up when little else is available, or they can not afford to buy more food if they have used up their rations.

Social distancing is nearly impossible in Cuba and the extreme lack of resources is bound to slow down recovery. Extended families often share a household due to the housing shortage. This makes physical distancing difficult, and the island’s poor infrastructure is very problematic due to infrastructure issues that include lack of running water and poor sanitation in many homes and communities. The tourist places are not the norm in Cuba, and in most of Cuba these issues are much more widespread than in tourist places like Trinidad or Vinales.

Originally, Cuba’s reaction to the coronavirus threat was swift and well prepared. In January 2020, the government started a prevention/control initiative that included training medical staff, preparing medical and quarantine facilities, and informing the public (including tourism workers) about symptoms and precautions. As you may remember from my earlier blogs here, the first three reported cases were confirmed on March 11 in Trinidad. The government was ready and things were in place to be able to rapidly trace and isolate contacts, and quarantine all suspected contacts of anyone with Covid. Cuba quickly was able to activate medical students for nationwide door-to-door surveys to identify vulnerable people and check for symptoms, and roll out a testing program. I saw this firsthand, and it made me realize why the Cuban people have so much faith and trust in their government around issues of health, even if they do not have as much around other issues. When it comes to health, Cuba does not mess around. Historically, Cuba has a decent reputation for managing health crisis within the country and people there trust in that much more than you might think.

By March 20, with 21 confirmed cases reported, a ban on tourist arrivals was laid down, along with lockdown for vulnerable people, provision for home working, reassignment of workers to priority tasks, employment protection and social assistance. All tourists were asked to leave Cuba and that’s when I came back to the good old USA, on the last Southwest flight to Ft Lauderdale on March 22.

Within a month or so, most public transport was shut down, which has greatly affected food supplies as well as other materials. People were required to be inside except for going out for necessities. I was told that in Trinidad the streets were sprayed with bleech and sanitation was taken to a new level never seen before to clean the city as much as possible. And while there have been very few cases in Trinidad since the shutdown, of course, my concern is that the minute tourists start to come again, coronavirus will be right behind and the cycle could start again.

I hope not. Time, as always, is the master,

For Travel info and upcoming Trips: Book your Travel to  Cuba here.   

Learn more about Cuba Travel: Can Americans travel to Cuba?YES YOU CAN VISIT CUBA: 2020 Travel Update for Cuba Travel  How to Travel to Cuba and click here to get your free guide on 10 Tips Every Traveler to Cuba should know. 

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