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News from a community in quarantine

Covid Pinar del RíoJust like the rest of Cuba, residents of the Camilo Cienfuegos community go out onto their balconies at nine o’clock every night, to applaud heath care workers fighting COVID-19.

This simple tribute to those who care for our people and risk their lives in other latitudes – wherever they are requested, given the confidence Cuban health professionals inspire worldwide – is the only time they can see each other, or at least hear each other, in this small town in Pinar del Rio, which was placed in quarantine March 31.

No one enters, no one leaves. Or better said, almost no one, because to ensure basic services for the population, the arrival of some vehicles delivering food or supplies is absolutely necessary.

Toward this end, Manuel Carmona, president of the Canal Zone Defense Council – where Camilo Cienfuegos is located- explains that a single access point has been established, on the road that connects the settlement with the highway, where vehicles are fumigated and measures to protect drivers are taken.

The Camilo Cienfuegos community in the municipality of Consolación del Sur, is the second in Cuba to report local transmission of COVID-19, with five cases of the disease confirmed, at the time the decision was made to quarantine the area.

At that time, the Provincial Defense Council, established restrictive isolation measures and activated the Zone Defense Council.

(Source: Granma)

According to public health authorities, the outbreak began after a couple arrived from Cancún, Mexico, and, within a few days, began to exhibit symptoms indicative of the new coronavirus.

Among actions to prevent further infections of COVID-19, defined as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the majority of persons who came in contact with the first two patients were admitted to isolation centers, to be closely monitored, but it is clear that others may have unknowingly been exposed to the virus, since COVID-19 is highly contagious.

Aware of this reality, inhabitants of the community have complied fully with the restrictive measures.

Emilio Crespo, the Zone Defense Council’s president who lives in Building 10, reported that residents have supported the decision, because they know the goal is to protect their health.

“Perception of the risk has been growing, based on all the information broadcast in the media,” he added.

Crespo explained that in order to ensure basic services during the contingency, medical attention has been reinforced in the two clinics, and screening for respiratory symptoms expanded, while sales of food and other essential items continue, and cafeterias are offering take-out service.

To avoid crowding, he added, several initiatives have been taken, including distribution of the basic subsidized food basket, for example, which was organized by building, with one wing at a time, then another, and so on.

“Other products are sold at retail outlets with the support of activists from Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, who help organize lines.”

Elderly residents who receive assistance from the Family Care System (FCS) have their food delivered to their homes, so they do not have to go out, Crepso added.

A brigade of residents has temporarily assumed fumigation previously carried out by sanitation workers, to avoid the need for anyone else to enter the settlement.

As in every rural town, many community members work in agriculture. Faced with this reality, alternatives have been sought.

“People from nearby areas are replacing the community’s people at the dairy, to maintain production,” Crespo reported.

On the other end of the phone, like all interviewees quoted in this story, he described the work of authorities as positive and says that the people understand and help, because they know COVID-19 can be deadly.

Yanet Hernández, a physical education teacher at the local primary school, agrees and has been supporting prevention work, since classes were canceled.

“People here have been very disciplined in following the doctors’ instructions, and we are very grateful for what is being done to fight the disease.”

Yanet has two daughters and knows how much work is involved keeping the young ones at home for so many days, but given the danger posed by the new coronavirus, she agrees there is no other option.

“You don’t see children on the street here. We make sure they don’t come down from the apartments,” she added.

As with every rule, strict social distancing within the small settlement of some 1,400 inhabitants has an exception – evident every night at nine o’clock, when boisterous applause erupts from the balconies of its 13 buildings, celebrating the lives and dedication of those waging the battle against this virus.

In Context

-According to established protocols, restrictive measures of isolation of a given area are maintained until the outbreak is contained.

-An outbreak is considered contained 15 days after the last confirmed case.

-In the community of Camilo Cienfuegos, the last patient testing positive for the new coronavirus was identified March 25, meaning that the quarantine will be maintained until at least April 9.

-The first event of local transmission of COVID-19 in the country took place in the province of Matanzas, involving a hotel staff member in Varadero, whose source of infection was a group of Italian tourists.

-Army General Raúl Castro Ruz and President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, recently called for activation of Provincial Defense Councils, in reduced composition, to support the response to COVID-19, in addition to Municipal Defense Councils, as needed.

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