Help From China Has Arrived in the Collapsed Hospitals of Ciego de Avila

Visit of the Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca this Monday to the Doctor Antonio Luaces Iraola Provincial Teaching Hospital, in Ciego de Ávila. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 August 2021 — The alarms are ringing in Ciego de Ávila. With 1,434 coronavirus infections detected this Monday, it is the only province that casts a sad shadow over Havana where — with four times the population — 1,698 cases of covid-19 were diagnosed yesterday.

Although the incidence data for every 100,000 inhabitants at 14 days has not been updated for weeks, the province already far exceeded a rate of 2,000 infections, well ahead of the capital, which then reported a rate of 478 cases.

The situation is so serious that the official press does not skimp on details, and even this Monday the Government sent Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca on a visit to the Doctor Antonio Luaces Iraola Provincial Teaching Hospital. This Tuesday, the newspaper Invasor published an article, How can the hospital in Ciego de Ávila be helped?, which gives an account of the extreme healthcare situation in the area and asks for volunteers.

“The hospital lacks hands and this is not a metaphor that I write: it is an emergency. Hands are lacking for its elevators, to carry stretchers, to clean rooms, to put juice to a patient’s lips, to assist them with food or in the bathroom, so nurses could then take care of procedures that other hands would not know how to do,” he explains.

Help, for now, has come from China, according to the official press, in the form of respirators donated by the Asian giant. The provincial hospital received five of them, ChenWei brand, in addition to 80 oxygen concentrators. Meanwhile, the Roberto Rodríguez Hospital, in Morón, and the Nguyen Van Troi Psychiatric Hospital, enabled to care for coronavirus cases, received two ventilators each, in addition to dozens of oxygen concentrators.

The population, meanwhile, speculates on another option coming from Beijing: vaccines. Comments on the possibility that this serum is being used in the province’s vaccination campaign have been taking shape through social networks and have reached the readers of the official press, without being denied, so far.

The rumor stems from a meeting of the temporary working group for confronting Covid-19 held in the province last week and in which, according to one of the participants, the option of immunizing Ciego de Ávila residents with the Chinese vaccine was mentioned.

Since then, readers have asked Invasor journalists directly about the alleged vaccination with Sinovac or another of the Chinese vaccines, and demanded transparent information and, although no explanation has been given, they have not been denied the rumor. “You can be convinced that the moment we have that information we will publish it. What we cannot do is publish unconfirmed or official information,” replied an editor of the official newspaper last Friday to those who asked her to clarify what they considered an “open secret.”

This newspaper has not been able to verify that the Ciego de Ávila population or people in any other part of Cuba has been inoculated with Chinese drugs as of yet, but a delay in vaccination with the Cuban Abdala has been verified, which apparently only applies to the rate planned for the city of Ciego de Ávila and the municipality of Morón.

In several calls made by 14ymedio to polyclinics in Chambas and Ciro Redondo, health workers confirmed that the only vaccine being used is the Abdala, but not for the general population, but rather pregnant and postpartum women. With regards to the Chinese vaccine, they claim to know nothing.

In several communities of the rural municipality Primero de Enero, vaccination with Abdala has been postponed for a week. This Tuesday, when they were to start in some cooperatives, it was announced that immunization is postponed until tomorrow.

“They are going to vaccinate 30 people a day, no more,” a resident told this newspaper. “And we even have to prepare a snack and food for the health personnel,” he complains, while pointing out that the Government does not guarantee the feeding of the doctors and nurses who will vaccinate.

The extreme situation is experienced on all fronts and not only in hospitals. There is a lack of capacities in cemeteries, it takes time to transfer patients, the tests are analyzed with a slowness that leaves infections uncontrolled, and that collapse only generates more and more cases.

Maria Elena Soto, head of the Department of Primary Health Care of the Ministry of Public Health, announced this Monday that immunization in the capital had concluded after having injected 1.3 million people with Cuba’s vaccines, Soberana and Abdala, including all pregnant women. According to the data provided, which will be expanded on Tuesday on the Roundtable television program, 23% of Cubans over the age of 19 have received the complete series of vaccinations and the goal is to continue with children and adolescents.

According to two doctors consulted by the state agency Prensa Latina, the majority of those vaccinated have not had adverse effects and have not suffered from Covid in a serious way, although there is no data yet to support their beliefs. The truth, according to official figures, is that more than 50% of Havanans who had received all doses of the vaccine were infected with coronavirus, unusual numbers in other countries. But it is not known how many of them had severe Covid or were hospitalized.

This Wednesday, the total number of reported cases, with yesterday’s data, is 9,629, and it is already the third day in which more than 9,000 cases have been reported. The deceased were 80, for a total of 2,993 confirmed deaths so far, always according to official figures that some organizations consider far below reality.

Cuba, with a population of 11.2 million people, currently has an incidence rate of 1,111 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the triumphalist tone of Díaz-Canel himself has collapsed. “We will have difficult weeks” in which “much remains to be done and we cannot allow mistakes,” he wrote in a tweet this Tuesday.


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