C19 Notes

Cuba sets example with successful programme to contain coronavirus

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Cuba sets example with successful programme to contain coronavirus

The state has commanded tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases Covid-19 – every single day. That means that from Monday to Sunday, Dr Caballero and her medical students must walk for miles, monitoring the 328 families on her beat.“There’s no other country in the hemisphere that does anything approaching this,” said William Leogrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “The whole organization of their healthcare system is to be in close touch with the population, identify health problems as they emerge, and deal with them immediately.“We know scientifically that quick identification of cases, contact tracing and quarantine are the only way to contain the virus in the absence of a vaccine – and because it begins with prevention, the Cuban health system is perfectly suited to carry out that containment strategy.”
Gail Reed, editor in chief of the journal Medicc Review, believes Cuba’s universal health system has allowed the government to “direct a unified rather than a fragmented strategy”.
“Asymptomatic cases are identified through contact tracing followed by antibody testing and, when positive, a PCR [polymerase chain reaction test, which can find viral particles on a person] for confirmation,” she said.        This tracing and isolation regime is made possible by human resources. Cuba has the highest doctor-to-patient ratio in the world (even when the 10,000 or so doctors currently working abroad are subtracted from the total). And while health spending was cut during Raúl Castro’s time as president (2008–2018), the island spends a higher proportion of its GDP on healthcare than any other country in the region.