A photo essay from The Guardian shows poignant images of Cuba during the pandemic. For much of 2020, Cuba’s extensive health system kept the virus all but beyond the island’s borders, but at the cost of tourism. The economy contracted by 11% , imports fell by 40%. Even prior to the virus, Cuba was suffering. Donald Trump’s administration had tightened the 60-year-old US embargo, shutting down the channels through which Cubans abroad could send money home. The virus added hunger. The government maintains controls of all imports but now has little hard currency to pay for them. Huge queues formed whenever there were rumours of chicken, oil or medicine. At the same time, medical students were spreading out through the streets, asking door to door for news of symptoms.
Good healthcare and emigration has aged Cuba – the median is 42 (in the US it is 38 and neighbouring Haiti 22) – and so it is a vulnerable population. The authorities plan to start immunising Havana’s population this month in a 1.7m strong trial of two homegrown vaccines, Soberana-02 and Abdala. After Cuba opened its airports in November, 2020, the flood of visitors from Florida in particular brough move COVID to the island.