HAVANA (Reuters) - Twenty-nine Cubans recently returned from Venezuela have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last eight days, according to government data, raising questions about health conditions in the South American country under tough U.S. sanctions.
There is no open travel in Cuba due to the pandemic, so most returnees would likely be from the 20,000 health personnel stationed in Venezuela. At least two of the cases were reported in provincial media as health workers.
All the cases were listed by the health ministry in daily reports covering July 26 through August 3, which provided little detail.
“Fifty-six-year-old Cuban citizen. Resident of San Luis municipality, Pinar del Rio province. Traveler arriving from Venezuela,” reads one of five case reports published on Monday.
The Sancti Spiritus provincial paper Escambray reported “the new case is a public health collaborator, from Venezuela who resides in Venegas, Yaguajay,” referring to another patient.
The Trump administration claims Cuban public health professionals in Venezuela are security agents, but in the same breath says they are real doctors and nurses being trafficked and abused by their Communist-run government. Cuba vehemently denies that.
Cuban officials have countered that Washington should worry more about its own citizens’ health.
Other cases have been reported from other countries, but never in large numbers.
Cuba has not reported how many of its health professionals battling the coronavirus at home and in more than 40 other countries have fallen ill but has said none have died. Cubans returning from abroad are quarantined for 14 days.
Most of the Caribbean island nation has been free of the disease for at least two months, but some cases continue to be reported in Havana and bordering provinces.
There have been fewer than 3,000 cases and 88 deaths to date.
Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dan Grebler
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