BOGOTÁ, Colombia, March 20, 2020 – Cuba has reported the first fatality due to ‘coronavirus’, an Italian citizen. The island suspended all sporting activities until April 30th 2020.
The Cuban government confirmed on Wednesday the first death from the coronavirus on the island, a 61-year-old Italian tourist who was in critical condition.
The Ministry said the Italian tourist, from the Lombardy region in northern Italy, died due to “complications of his illness.”
A 77-year-old American also contracted the virus, the Ministry of Health said in a statement published in the official newspaper, Granma.
Previously, Cuban authorities had said they had 13 travellers from the United States under medical observation.
A 67-year-old Cuban woman who arrived on March 11 from New Jersey, and a 25-year-old Cuban man who returned to the island from Madrid on March 8, also contracted the virus. Both reside in the city of Santa Clara, in Villa Clara province.
With the three new cases, the count of coronavirus confirmed patients in the country rose to 10.
Authorities also confirmed three new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus: two Cubans and the American who arrived on the island on March 8 from California.
According to the ministry’s statement, the American man began showing symptoms a week after arriving, when he was staying in Trinidad, a city in the center of the country. He was then admitted to a hospital in nearby Villa Clara, and “continues to evolve satisfactorily so far.”
The government said it is screening travelers and has canceled art and music shows and sporting events to avoid crowds. Still, it has not implemented the more drastic measures seen in other countries in the region. Schools and public places remain open, and no travel restrictions have been announced, a policy that has drawn sharp criticism from the population.
Health officials appeared on state media on Tuesday to send a reassuring message.
“The quarantine is established depending on the transmission, and at this time, it is not justified. We are working not to reach that moment,” said Dr. Francisco Durán García, national director of epidemiology in the Ministry of Public Health.
“When there is no obvious transmission, and you close schools, it creates extra stress which weakens the immune response,” the official said.
The Cuban government also allowed a British cruise ship, which had been stranded in the Caribbean for days with five people with COVID-10 and another forty in isolation, to dock at one of the island’s ports.
The passengers of the MS Braemer, a ship owned by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, started to disembark Wednesday afternoon at the port of Mariel, west of the capital, to be transferred directly to the José Martí International Airport, in Havana. From there, four British Airways planes will take them back to the United Kingdom, in an effort coordinated between the two governments.