Havana (AFP) – Stricter application of sanctions and a campaign to urge the population to be more vigilant: Cuba has decided to apply new measures to combat the rise in coronavirus cases, with record figures in recent days .
“The country’s management has announced a strengthening of the measures intended to control the current epidemiological situation, with health promotion and education actions and concrete decisions to be adopted by the bodies and the national health system”, according to the daily Tribuna de La Habana.
There will be more police patrols to ensure the isolation of quarantined neighborhoods and the application of fines to those who do not wear masks or do not respect isolation measures.
The country of 11.2 million inhabitants had achieved control of the pandemic on its territory, with a few dozen cases per day, but since the beginning of the year the figures have started to rise again, with daily records of over 1,000 cases in the past week.
“Since the last week of January, the epidemic has evolved with more than 5,000 confirmed cases per week, which has increased transmission in regions (of Cuba) where the disease had been controlled,” said the Minister of Health José Angel Miranda.
The opening of the borders and the arrival of many tourists and Cuban-Americans for the end of year celebrations are the main causes of the rebound in cases, but now they are scattered throughout the territory.
And while the country suffers from severe food shortages, forcing Cubans to queue long hours every day in front of supermarkets to look for food, strict containment of the entire population is impossible to enforce.
In areas under quarantine, the authorities generally set up a local food distribution system.
The majority of cases are in Havana, where 2.1 million inhabitants live and for which new, even stricter measures concerning the displacement of people, will be announced Thursday, according to the authorities. The capital has already been under curfew from 9:00 p.m. since January.
“We must increase control in the neighborhoods (of Havana), we are at war against the coronavirus so we must make war decisions,” said the president of the City’s Defense Council, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar.
In the streets of the capital, residents showed resignation on Wednesday in the face of the announced strengthening of measures.
“Confinement is not at all pleasant, but hey, unfortunately it has to be like that,” commented Carlos Dominguez, a 57-year-old building keeper forced to stay at home.
“There is no other solution as long as the problem is not solved, we must be confined”, added René Cano, plastic artist of 67 years.
In the province of Matanzas (West), where the Varadero seaside resort is located, local authorities announced on Wednesday the suspension of public transport and the confinement of the population not ensuring essential activity.
Cuba reported 961 new cases on Wednesday, for a total of 82,601 cases including 442 deaths, figures which remain very low compared to the rest of the American continent.