Pinar del Río .– «Have you heard the phrase“ hunter hunted ”? Well, that’s what happened to me », jokes Manuel Carmona from the other side of the telephone line, at home, where he remains isolated from the world, after leaving the hospital.
Last April, when the Camilo Cienfuegos community, in the Pinar del Río municipality of Consolación del Sur, became the first town in Cuba to go into quarantine due to COVID-19, Manuel played a leading role in the confrontation to the epidemic.
As president of the Zone Defense Council, he led the organization of the community so that people could receive basic services, without having to leave their homes.
In an unprecedented experience for the country, accesses were closed and a distribution system for basic necessities was established through volunteers. In addition, a fumigation brigade made up of the residents themselves was created so as not to bring in anyone from outside.
In this way, it was possible to contain the outbreak and return Camilo Cienfuegos to normal. However, as clear evidence that in the face of COVID-19 no one is infallible, on October 21, Manuel tested positive for the disease.
He says that it all started with a person from his company who was diagnosed with the new coronavirus, and that his wife, son, daughter and two grandchildren were also infected with him.
Although all six were asymptomatic the entire time, he confesses that the experience is hard anyway.
“When they put you on interferon, it’s like a boxer punches you on the chin and knocks you out all day.”
The rest of the injections and tablets made him want to vomit, diarrhea, nausea, dizziness. “The treatment is very strong, but also very effective, because thanks to it, all the people around him recovered,” he says.
The epicenter of the pandemic
Like Manuel, hundreds of people from Pinar del Río have had to fight against the disease, since a violent outbreak began in the territory on October 6 that still persists.
In just two weeks, Vueltabajo surpassed the number of cases it had had in the previous seven months of the pandemic (117) and, since then, the number has continued to grow by the day.
At the close of this edition, there were 828 infected people, which has catapulted the incidence rate to one of the top positions in the country.
This has implied the province’s regression to the autochthonous transmission phase, with entire villages in quarantine. It has even made some protocols that seemed outdated be resumed, such as the activation of 27 isolation centers for contacts of confirmed and suspected cases.
The situation shows, once again, how contagious SARS-COV-2 is, but it also denotes the lack of rigor in some territories to combat the epidemic.
In Sandino, for example, where more than one hundred cases accumulate, 45 days after the start of the regrowth, difficulties with the quality of the investigation and compliance with the restrictive measures in the urban perimeter of the municipal head, which is still quarantined.
Even though several hundred fines have been applied, Hilario Cáceres, mayor of the territory, acknowledged, in a meeting of the Provincial Defense Council (CDP) that, among the main deficiencies has been the violation of the sanitary protocols established to cut the spread of the disease. covid-19 in several state entities, something that has caused the appearance of outbreaks that could be avoided.
The problem is not unique to Sandino. On October 21, after the regression to the epidemic stage, the cdp issued 480 measures with the purpose of containing the disease.
However, given the persistence of indiscipline and the lack of perception of risk by a part of the population, at the beginning of this week it was forced to enact new provisions in order to reduce the mobility of people and promote physical distancing.
For Dr. Raúl Pérez, director of the National Institute of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology, Pinar del Río has already passed the peak of the epidemic and is now on a kind of plateau, with a slight decline.
This is what the figures of the last four weeks show, in which the number of infected tends to decrease slightly (although the number of CRP tests has also done so) and of the 11 municipalities, there are six that have stopped reporting new cases.
However, the head of the advisory team, appointed by the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) to support the fight against covid-19 here, warns that it is very difficult to make a forecast of how long the province might need to move to the Recovery.
“This plateau should go down, unless things are stopped doing well, or are not fulfilled as established,” says the specialist, adding that control of the disease is something that depends on many factors.
Despite the statistics indicating that the work is beginning to pay off, Dr. Raúl Pérez points out that “at the slightest wrong move, all these tables are turned upside down and we go back.”
Hence the importance of not lowering our guard and rigorously complying with health protocols.
On the local television channel, the radio stations, the Guerrillero newspaper, and even on the loudspeakers placed in the most central places of the provincial capital or in vehicles that retrace the city, this is a message that is reiterated over and over again , but not all people internalize.
This is proven by the recent appearance of two cases in the popular council of Arroyos de Mantua, a place that can only be reached by crossing one of the quarantined areas of Guane or Sandino.
Without a doubt, this is an unfortunate reality, in a province where the majority of the population has supported the fight against the pandemic.
From his home, where he has remained in isolation after leaving the hospital, Manuel Carmona assures that in a couple of days he will be discharged and in a position to re-assume command of the defense zone, to give the final blow to the new coronavirus.
From his experiences as a COVID-19 patient, he keeps the memory of the injections and several ideas of how to be more effective in preventing the disease.
“Everything we’ve been through,” he says, “serves as experience to improve work and actions to prevent people from continuing to get infected.”