Cuba will enter the post-COVID-19 “new normal” next Monday, except for Havana and the two central provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Sancti Spíritus, the government announced this Thursday, without yet giving a specific date for the reopening of borders, closed since April.
The capital, the main gateway to the country and the only destination where U.S. airlines are allowed to fly, will go to phase 3 of recovery which includes almost total opening of services and productive activities, but at the moment it does not foresee the restart of international flights.
— Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) October 9, 2020
In a two-hour television appearance, Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero explained that under the “new normal” PCR tests will be carried out on all travelers arriving on the island, who will wait for the result in hotels or in their homes under health surveillance rather than in state isolation centers as before.
The prime minister, however, did not specify whether as of Monday the airports in the rest of the country will come into operation, most of them certified under the new health protocols to reduce the risks of spreading the virus.
Cuba’s airspace and ports have been closed since last April, with the exception of tourism charter flights to its keys, humanitarian flights, departure or arrival of medical missions and cargo transportation.
With the two highest incidence rates of the coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants, Ciego de Ávila and Sancti Spíritus are still in the phase of “autochthonous transmission” of the disease, with most services and public transportation suspended.
To date, the island has a total of 5,917 positive cases, 123 deaths and 91% recovered, amid a second wave of COVID-19 with a tendency to control and that today has its epicenter in the central area.
New normal under personal responsibility
“We’re going to apply a new life model that will allow us to live with the disease for a long time…. Waiting for the vaccine to arrive, we have to learn to use the only method we have seen works: personal responsibility,” Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said in the same television broadcast.
In short, under the “new normal” the island will resume services and activities at full capacity, with epidemiological surveillance protocols that will depend largely on each citizen.
The president insisted on the relevance of the new strategy to be followed, which goes “beyond closures and quarantines” to establish a “very practical group of operating procedures under the principle of rationality.”
“If there are outbreaks, the center or the block will be closed, the province or municipality will not be closed, life has to go on,” Díaz-Canel explained.
The “new code and responsible lifestyle” promoted by the Cuban government includes the mandatory use of the mask in closed spaces and crowds, personal hygiene, physical distancing and disinfection of homes and workplaces.
“We need the population to collaborate and when symptoms appear, to go to the doctor,” insisted Prime Minister Marrero, who affirmed that they will continue to carry out PCR tests even in territories where there are no reports of positive cases.
Six Cuban provinces have not detected COVID-19 cases in the last 15 days, some even for months. Of the rest, only Ciego de Ávila, Havana and Sancti Spíritus register considerable numbers, with 251, 221 and 142 positive cases, respectively, in these two weeks.
End to daily appearances
Starting next Monday, the daily television appearances with updated data on infections, active cases and medical discharges will end, as of then they will only take place on Fridays.
These broadcasts put a face to the fight against the coronavirus on the island and made the director of epidemiology of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Francisco Durán, a popular face that accompanied Cubans during the worst moments of the epidemic, which had its first peak last April, followed by another worse one in August.
La conferencia de prensa diaria se extenderá a una frecuencia semanal. Seguiremos informando diariamente a nuestra población los datos principales a través de nuestros medios de comunicación. Llamamos a la responsabilidad de todos para garantizar el éxito de la nueva estrategia
— Francisco Alberto Durán García (@DrDuranGarcia) October 9, 2020
The high-level Temporary Government Working Group will also be dissolved. Headed by the president and the prime minister, it analyzed the progress of the epidemic every day, although its dissolution doesn’t mean that “we aren’t going to take an interest,” said Marrero.
In the provinces that enter the “new normal,” the government councils created last March, when the first cases of the virus were diagnosed, will be dismantled.
Cuban authorities announced that they will appear next week to offer more information and explain changes to the situation in Havana.