Cuba Effectively Contains Coronavirus, at a Price

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A respected professor and researcher, Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez held leadership responsibilities as chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. Among Dr. Jorge Dominguez’ areas of extensive knowledge is the Communist Cuban economy and sociopolitical system.

A recent article in Foreign Policy brought focus to Cuba’s unique response to the coronavirus pandemic. As of mid August, there had been 3,229 confirmed cases and near a hundred deaths related to COVID-19. Hundreds of tests undertaken for each new case identified. The mid-summer uptick of cases generated a few dozen new cases confirmed per day in the entire country.

With health care a bright spot in Cuba’s system, factors that have contributed to low viral spread and mortality include widespread monitoring, robust public trust in hospitals, and relatively large numbers of medical workers.

Similar to Wuhan, a centralized quarantine system has been set in place, with those who display COVID-19 symptoms sent to state-run isolation centers for two weeks, whether they want to go or not. This Draconian measure has been seen by some as state overextension, while others view it as a critical tool in preventing spread among extended family members.

For those with a longer memory, one concern is that this brings up memories of Cuba’s response to the HIV/AIDs epidemic. A majority of persons in the country was tested, and up until the early 1990s those with HIV were forced to live in monitored sanitariums, away from friends, family, and work.

With coronavirus largely contained, cash-desperate Cuba is moving to reopen tourism, though in a way that strictly segregates visitors from the local population. In addition, a currency unification process is again under consideration; it may someday move toward a single national currency with value in the international system.

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Currently in retirement, Jorge Dominguez most recently served as the Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at Harvard University for 12 years.

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