Cuba Records its First Case of Local Transmission of COVID-19

The Cuban commercial network has again suffered shortages of products like chicken, powdered milk, cheese, yogurt, and detergent. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, EFE, Havana, March 28, 2020 — Cuban health authorities acknowledged this Friday the first case of local infection of COVID-19, which until now had only occurred stemming from foreigners or Cuban travelers arriving with the disease on the Island, according to official reports.

The Cuban Minister of Health, José Ángel Portal, reported this Friday during the television program Round Table that local contagion occurred in the “Cardenas municipality, in the Matanzas province” and came from a hotel host from Varadero.

That man was diagnosed with COVID-19 after being infected by “a group of Italian tourists,” and his case was included on the list of positives for coronavirus that was disseminated on March 21.

From this patient 53 contacts were identified, who went on to isolation and epidemiologic observation and, of whom, four family members and a friend were found positive for the novel coronavirus.

Until this Saturday, in Cuba 119 positive cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed, 2,000 people were isolated under observation, and 3 deceased, the last of whom was a 52-year-old Cuban man.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had reported Cuba as a country with local COVID-19 transmission since March 19, but it wasn’t until Friday that Ministry of Public Health authorities confirmed it.

 1/ Questions for the Ministry of Public Health Cuba

Why is the WHO reporting Cuba as a country with local transmission of COVID-19 since March 19, but it wasn’t until yesterday, Friday the 28th [sic], that Health authorities confirmed this on state media?

– @invntario March 28, 2020

On the other hand, the Cuban Government announced this Friday, March 27, 2020 measures in the economic sector and retail trade focused on prioritizing the production of food and controlling its distribution to avoid crowds in face of the complex scenario created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vice Prime Minister, Alejandro Gil, explained during a television appearance that priority will be given to the production of food on the Island and concentrating resources on basic products, like the production of cement, medicine, cleaning products, and renewable energy sources.

“We must respond to this situation in an ordered manner, which allows taking a group of decisions to confront the pandemic with the least economic cost possible and that allows us to recover,” stressed the Minister, who also holds the office of Economy and Planning.

Gil called for looking for solutions “by our own hands,” which, in the realm of food, means promoting agricultural production with short cycle cultivation and the farming in urban spaces of products like plantains, corn, pork, rice, beans, and eggs.

The Minister said that the importation of basic products for feeding the population is “being carried out,” a line to which the country dedicates more than $2 billion per year. “A restriction in import supply is evident because countries are producing less, as well as difficulties in accessing financing sources and external credit, which demonstrates a decrease in the country’s productive levels and in foreign investment,” he said.

In recent weeks, the Island’s commerical network has again suffered from shortages in products like chicken, powdered milk, cheese, yogurt, and detergent, which has produced long lines and crowding that go against recommendations at the time of the contagious coronavirus.

Since last Tuesday the lines have begun to be regulated, keeping the proper distance of at least a meter between people. Stores must enforce the separation and it is necessary to avoid disorder, but the shortages and the popular fears have made it practically impossible to comply with those measures.

In face of the crisis, the Minister of Interior Commerce, Betsy Díaz, announced this Friday the “controlled and regulated” sale of a series of products, to avoid hoarding and resale. She specified that there are products that cannot be marketed by the “ration booklet.”

Starting April 30 there will also be distributed, in a controlled manner, to each person 10 ounces of peas and one pound of chicken — at an unsubsidized price of 20 CUP. In the case of cleaning products like washing and bathing soap, toothpaste, and bleach, those will be sold on a quarterly basis, in modules that will include a quantity of those articles according to the number of members in each nuclear family.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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