Feature: Revisit Cuba's hostel of 1st COVID-19 case

Source: Xinhua| 2021-03-12 16:01:07|Editor: huaxia
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by Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, March 11 (Xinhua) -- For many years, 39-year-old Yudisleidys Ramirez has been running You & Me Hostel, a popular bed and breakfast hostel in the Cuban city of Trinidad, located some 315 km east of the country's capital Havana.

"We have a family-operated business," she told Xinhua. "We would wake up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for guests and ensure they feel comfortable during their stay."

But everything has changed since March 11 last year, when three Italian tourists who stayed at her hostel became the first confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on the island.

Ramirez said that since then life had never been the same in Trinidad, the place where the pandemic started in Cuba.

"This terrible situation has been a hard blow for the family and the country's economy, but we are alive," she added.

The Italian tourists were rushed to the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) on the periphery of Havana, where a COVID-19 ward had been set up by the government.

"One of them would die some days later. Sometimes patients cannot recover from the virus, but we work very hard to save their lives," said Jose Alberto Rodriguez, a 35-year-old doctor at the IPK, who was on call on the night of March 11.

Among the country's first COVID-19 cases hospitalized at the IPK was 96-year-old Martha Sanchez, who lives in Havana, the epicenter of the pandemic on the island.

Having no symptoms, she contracted the virus from her daughter, who arrived from Spain on March 7 last year.

"Staying home without receiving any visitors is so boring. Now, I spend most of the time watching soccer games on TV, particularly Barcelona Football Club's," she told Xinhua via phone.

Local authorities in the Caribbean nation then canceled in-person classes, closed international borders, and brought to a halt all non-essential activities in the weeks that followed the detection of the first COVID-19 cases in Cuba.

Currently, the island's government has put in place measures to slow the spread of the contagious disease nationwide amid a surge in cases following the reopening of international airports in November and the Christmas break.

Cuba registered 778 new positive cases on Thursday and another four COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the national counts to 59,157 and 361, respectively.

At present, 4,656 active cases have been admitted to hospitals with 80 patients in intensive care units across the country.

Francisco Duran, national director of hygiene and epidemiology at the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, voiced confidence that the Caribbean nation would overcome the complex epidemiological situation it was going through.

"It is not a day to celebrate. We must keep on working hard," he said, adding that the outcome of the COVID-19 continued to be negative not only for Cuba but for the rest of the world as well.

Cuba aims to produce 100 million doses of its home-developed COVID-19 vaccines by year-end despite the economic sanctions imposed by the United States against the island.

"Over the past year, we have gotten used to wearing face masks, using hand sanitizers, and keeping physically distant from friends and workmates," said Havana resident Guillermo Ramirez. "I wish that on March 11, 2022, our reality will be different." Enditem