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  • Three Cuban female health workers walk through a neighborhood in Havana, Cuba. October 8, 2020.

    Three Cuban female health workers walk through a neighborhood in Havana, Cuba. October 8, 2020. | Photo: EFE/Yander Zamora

Published 8 October 2020
Opinion

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz presented the updated COVID-19 recovery plan on Thursday's Mesa Redonda television program after being recently approved by the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). 

In a two hour televised announcement, the heads of state and government announced the Caribbean nation's path to a "new normal," including a revision of the previous COVID-19 economic and social recovery plan announced this summer.

The guiding principles behind the new recovery plan are moving towards new normality for the country gradually and asymmetrically; mitigating the economic and social impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the strenghtening of the US blockade, and developing concrete methods to confront and control events that may arise during the "new normal" phase.

The new plan reduces the number of measures in the former plan from 220 to 190, with 128 staying the same, 57 eliminated, and 63 added. There is an epidemic phase under the new plan, including the limited autochthonous and the community transmission stages, and three recovery phases, before arriving at what the government has termed the "new normal."

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As of Monday, October 12, based on each province's epidemiological situations as well as lessons learned over the past months, Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila provinces will remain in the limited local stage of the epidemic phase, whereas Havana province will pass onto phase 3 of the recovery stage. The remaining 13 provinces in the country, including Santiago, Holguin, Matanzas, and others, will begin the "new normal" phase, including the full resumption of all production and services while assuring compliance with health and safety measures and incorporating lifestyle practices that are "here to stay."

It is essential to note the reduction of the rate of infection and the gross number of new cases necessary for a province to move onto a new phase, which has allowed Havana to move into phase 3 and the rest of the provinces to enter into the "new normal."

Some of the new measures announced include the ability of contacts or suspected contacts of confirmed cases to self-quarantine at home, under strict health protocols, instead of being remitted to an isolation center, as only 4.6% of the more than 115,000 individuals isolated throughout the pandemic have ended up positive for COVID-19.

The same will apply for Cuban nationals re-entering the country from abroad, so long as their PCR test is negative. Foreign travelers will have to declare their health status upon entering the country and receive a free PCR test. International commercial flights to Havana, as such, will begin soon, Marrero affirmed, and the date will be announced shortly.

Furthermore, Marrero insisted that the country will continue to modernize and increase the number of the country's intensive care units, noting that none collapsed or was overrun with patients. He assured that every province would soon have its own molecular biology laboratory to process PCR tests. He further clarified that businesses would receive a 5% reduction in taxes for immediate payments and tax forgiveness for those entities operating in territories under quarantine or severe restrictions. 

In terms of changes to governmental operations, Marrero announced that ministers will resume work visits to provinces; the daily press conference offered by Cuba's chief epidemiologist Dr. Francico Duran will now be weekly; and the municipal and provincial defense councils will be deactivated in the territories in the "new normal" phase. Weekly scientific meetings among experts to evaluate progress will remain.

In a much-awaited declaration, President Diaz-Canel mentioned the upcoming plans for monetary unification, without specifying the exact date, explaining that with the move will soon come and also include price adjustments, salary and pension increases, and reduced prices for national products to decrease dependency on imports and propel work productivity and productive chains in the domestic economy.

The new plan will be published widely in its entirety in a tabloid paper for the entire population. The relevant ministers and authorities will announce further announcements, clarifications, and specific measures in the coming days through the mass media.

Overall, the new plan emphasizes the importance of prevention, mutual protection, collective responsibility, mass participation, epidemiological vigilance, and ongoing stewardship and guidance from the CCP and the Cuban government.

In closing, Diaz-Canel affirmed that "love will save us," reminding the audience that "Cuba saves, heals and sows the future."

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