Cuba Takes Measures against the Omicron Variant as World Cases Soar

COVID-19 cases are on a concerning rise again on the Caribbean island. We started the year with about 500 cases per day, but in the last 24 hours, more than 1,000 new infections have been registered. The reason is the same as in other countries of the world including in the US where there have been over a million new cases recorded in each of the past few days.  The new Omicron variant is not completely understood yet but one thing that is clear is that this strain is even more contagious than its predecessors.

The new mutation spread around the world, and especially in the Americas, at lightning speed, and this was possible due to the vaccination gaps between rich and poor countries. Those without resources are forced to wait for the charity of the powerful, who oppose releasing patents and prioritize their people without perceiving that this pandemic will not stop until the majority of the planet’s inhabitants are immunized.

Cuba achieved an impossible feat. Despite being a small, low-income piece of land in the Caribbean, economically blockaded by the United States for more than 60 years, it developed its vaccines against this silent and deadly virus.

Thanks to the immunization campaign, more than 86 percent of its population is vaccinated. Still, “we cannot be confident,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel warned in a recent television appearance.

Omicron reached the island amid Cuba’s efforts to achieve as much normalcy as possible including the re opening of schools and the needed tourist trade. According to experts from the island and other nations, this variant is less lethal than its predecessor, delta. However, the jump in the number of contagions is worrisome and sets off the alarm bells to avoid a collapse of the country’s hospital system.

This Wednesday, for the first time in recent weeks, the island registered more infections than hospital discharges. In the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health reported 1,429 new cases of Covid-19, nearly 500 medical discharges, and one death.

For this reason, since Wednesday, a series of measures that will help us to keep this new threat at bay came into effect. According to the Ministry of Public Health, travelers arriving in the country as of this week, whether they are residents of Cuban territory or not, must present a vaccination passport.

They must also submit a negative result of the PCR-RT test, carried out within 72 hours before the trip. In the case of Cubans who are not immunized, they must undergo a Covid-19 test at the point of entry and comply with a mandatory quarantine for eight days in a hotel designated for that purpose while assuming the costs of lodging and transportation.

Cuban authorities also imposed specific measures for travelers from some African countries, where the variant is causing more havoc. The list includes South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Malawi, and Eswatini.

These measures will exempt children up to 12 years of age, of any nationality or origin, and adults who, for duly certified medical reasons, cannot be immunized with any of the vaccines approved to date by the corresponding regulatory agencies.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, assured that “Cuba faces the persistence of COVID-19 with 86.5 percent of its population fully immunized, while the application of the fourth booster dose – which has already reached 19.6 percent of Cubans-, is being accelerated. Let’s accompany the vaccines with conscious and responsible behavior.” The Cuban government has set an ambitious goal of getting the booster into the arms of the entire population by the end of January.

The premise will always be to take care of ourselves and remain attentive to information from the authorities. With Cuba fully vaccinated and soon to be boosted, we will be able to withstand the coming Omicron blow. Because Cuba is an educated society that has things explained to them in detail using common sense and  science they have not experienced the anti vaccination movement prevalent in the developed world where individual rights compete with what is good for the society as a whole.

But it is time to raise awareness at the international level. The entire world needs to be immunized to avoid future variants, which may be even more deadly and contagious than those already circulating that force us, over and over again, into confinement and caution. This will not happen as long as the richest countries and the profit first health second pharmaceuticals get to dictate the distribution deals that exclude poorer countries who can’t pay.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English