Edition 17 - April, 2020
COVID-19 in Cuba
SPREAD OF THE DISEASE
At the time of writing Cuba had reported 986 confirmed Coronavirus cases and 32 deaths. Due to the social distancing measures that have been implemented, the rate of infection seems like it might be plateauing. You can keep watch of the numbers here.
Like everywhere else, Cuba is closed for tourism for the moment. Arrivals by air and sea have been suspended even for expat Cubans wanting to visit from overseas, and just last week it was announced that both urban and rural public transport will be suspended except for that required for workers providing vital services.
OPINIONS ABOUT CUBA'S RESPONSE
Most Cubans understand the reasons and agree with the strict nature of the lockdown in place. Many were calling for the measures to be put in place earlier. The first cases in Cuba, detected on March 11, were Italian tourists that had arrived in Cuba on March 9. This was after the extent and seriousness of the situation in Italy was well known. Tourist arrivals to Cuba were only stopped on March 24.
Could Cuba have acted faster?
A more immediate stop on tourist arrivals would no doubt have limited the damage and saved lives. Counting in Cuba's favour however is its free public health system, the world’s highest ratio of doctors to population, and a society that is used to strict government controls and organising itself to confront frequent hurricanes. Cuba is expected to be able to successfully suppress the virus amoung its population, contain infections, and limit the the number of deaths. Nevertheless the pandemic represents a stern test for Cuba's health care system and economic resilience especially at a time when US sanctions and enmity are particularly intense.
While the US is blocking the sale of ventilators to Cuba, and Israel enlisted its secret service agency to covertly acquire medical supplies, Cuba is setting an example in international solidarity by sending doctors to at least 14 different countries to help them combat the virus. This includes Italy where 10,000 medical workers have contracted the virus at least 69 doctors have died.
With tourism in Cuba on an indefinite pause, the export of medical services is now also more critical than ever to Cuba's economy. Cuba currently has about 37,000 medical workers in 67 countries, most in longstanding missions. Some doctors have been sent as part of free aid missions, but many countries pay Cuba directly for the services. In some cases international health bodies pay. The US government continues to discourage countries from contracting Cuban medical workers despite the pandemic, arguing that their pay and conditions fall short of industry standards. The doctors on the missions receive about 30% of the money paid to the Cuban government for their work, which is significantly more than their wage while working in Cuba. Considering that each COVID-19 test costs Cuba around US$50, it is not hard to imagine where some of the other 70% will be spent by the Cuban Government.
Cuba also welcomed and assisted the MS Braemar cruiseship that had been refused by other ports in the Caribbean. Some of the passengers were infected and Cuba organised for them to be taken from the cruiseship to the airport to board repatriation flights.
WILL CUBAN ADVENTURES SURVIVE?
We are determined to emerge from the crisis as a stronger and healthier business than we were beforehand. Most of our clients that had bookings affected have chosen to postpone rather than cancel which, together with our already healthy financial state, helps us remain confident.
SUPPORTING OUR STAFF
It also helps us retain the vast majority of our staff. For those that don't have any work for the next few months, such as the tour guides, we will be supporting them by paying retainer wage packages and assistance wage packages so that they (and the extended family members that their wage supports) can survive this period.
As you would expect, we have suspended all of our tours in Cuba. For the moment this is until the end of May. Depending on the evolution of the pandemic we will update this plan. Our decisions will be based on the advice provided to us by the Cuban government and when it is deemed safe to travel in Cuba.
WHAT ARE WE DOING IN THE DOWNTIME?
We will be concentrating our efforts on a new and improved website, booking system, and designing new tour products that will be launched when the virus has passed and we can resume normal operations.
WE ARE ALSO DANCING! That's right!
Our staff are competing amongst themselves in a Stay Home Dance Contest. There is still time to vote! So head to our Facebook or Twitter account and to help us choose the winner!
Our tour guides will also be writing articles about Cuban society, history, and culture which will be published in the blog section of our website.
Here is the latest article we published. It's about the classic cars of Havana and why so many of them are now painted pink!
Discount Code for our Tours!
Don't forget that anyone can get a 10% discount on our Cuba tours if they book directly with us and use the promo code YUMAFRIENDS. Tell your friends, before they book a Cuba trip so they don't miss out! See conditions.
Thanks for your support.
We look forward to welcoming you in Cuba one day soon!
Team Cuban Adventures