Covid-19: Cuba detects the first case of omicron in a medical collaborator from Africa | The coronavirus crisis


A man waits to be treated in a pharmacy in Havana, on July 15.
A man waits to be treated in a pharmacy in Havana, on July 15.Eliana Aponte (AP)

The omicron variant of the coronavirus is already in Cuba. It was confirmed on Wednesday by the Ministry of Health (MINSAP), which indicated that a medical collaborator arrived from Mozambique on November 27 – Cuba has hundreds of health professionals deployed in various countries in Africa – was the first positive case of the new strain detected on the island. According to the MINSAP, the aid worker arrived in the country asymptomatic and moved to the western province of Pinar del Río, where he resides, but the next day he began to present symptoms of the disease and went to the hospital a day later, where he was tested. antigen and a PCR, which were positive. After analyzing the sample at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana, the Cuban reference center in the fight against the pandemic, it was found, 11 days after entering Cuba, that the professional was infected with the omicron variant of SARS CoV2.

The authorities said that 16 extra-domiciliary and two intra-domiciliary contacts of the patient have been identified, whose identity has not been specified. At the moment, it has been reported that all are asymptomatic and negative to the PCR performed. “Epidemiological surveillance on contacts, the community and the strengthening of international sanitary control measures is being maintained,” said Minsap in a statement.

On December 4, the Government put into effect new preventive measures and protocols in the country to deal with the new omicron variant. From that day on, travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi and Mozambique have to offer proof of vaccination upon entry to the island, carry out a seven-day quarantine and undergo three PCR tests in the first week in the country. The rest of the visitors from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as those arriving from Belgium, Israel, Hong Kong, Egypt and Turkey, do not have to undergo quarantine, but they must also present a complete vaccination schedule and carry out two PCR tests in Cuba.

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The island adopted these restrictions three weeks after the country’s borders were reopened after a year and a half of tourist hiatus, the country’s main industry, which in 2019 contributed nearly $ 3 billion annually to the state coffers. In the first eight months of 2021, 163,700 visitors entered the country, 95% less than in the same period of 2019, a severe blow to an economy that for years has been in the red and faces extreme liquidity problems. In November, visitor numbers have begun to recover and the Government is not considering closing its airports again; the policy now is to tighten controls and increase vigilance.

The arrival of the new strain in Cuba occurs at a favorable epidemiological moment, when more than 83% of the population is vaccinated and the epidemic has begun to clear up in the last weeks after the acute summer crisis, when they reached An average of more than 8,000 positive cases were detected daily – there were more than 10,000 days – which put the health services of some provinces on the brink of collapse. The MINSAP reported that on Wednesday 81 new infections and no deaths were registered, for a cumulative of 963,428 positive cases and 8,311 deaths (out of a population of 11 million) since the epidemic began.

Cuba intends to end the year with the entire population immunized with its own vaccines. At the moment, the island has three – Sovereign 02, Abdala and Soberana Plus – approved by the Cuban regulatory agency and which are now subject to the international approval process by the WHO. The Cuban vaccination scheme includes three doses, and its effectiveness, according to the research centers that have developed the drugs, is 92%, similar to that of Pfizer, Jansen or Moderna. According to MINSAP, at the moment 9.2 million Cubans have completed their vaccination schedule (more than 83% of the population), and 90% have been administered one dose or more. Efforts are now focused on vaccinating children – from two years of age – and providing booster doses to the population at risk.

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Regarding the efficacy of Cuban vaccines in the face of the new variant, the director of the Finlay Vaccine Institute, Vicente Verez, who has developed Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus, assured that they offer “a certain level of protection” against omicron, but assured that It is already working on the improvement of one of the vaccines to increase its effectiveness against the new strain of the virus. “We decided to start developing a variant of Soberana Plus with the omicron RBD protein. We started, and this protein is under construction right now ”, assured the scientist this week.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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