Report: Cuba Forcing Citizens into Coronavirus ‘Camps,’ Offering Dangerous Drugs

Police officers strengthen security in El Carmelo neighbourhood in Havana on April 4, 2020 after Cuban authorities announced its isolation as a measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus after the detection of COVID-19 cases. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

Eyewitnesses say the Cuban Communist Party is forcing suspected coronavirus patients into unsanitary, poorly stocked, and densely populated “camps” and making them take an unproven antiviral treatment, a report revealed this weekend.

The Global Liberty Alliance (GLA), a human rights advocacy group that focuses on legal aid to dissidents, verified ongoing reports of Cuban citizens ending up in “isolation centers” if suspected of carrying Chinese coronavirus. The camp whose existence and dire medical status the organization confirmed is located in central Santa Clara.

“A government ‘survey taker’ (encuestadora), allegedly connected to the Ministry of Public Health, knocks on citizens’ doors daily, asking how many people live in each home and whether they are experiencing respiratory or fever-like symptoms,” the GLA confirmed. “Suspected COVID [Chinese coronavirus]-positive cases are being transported to an ‘isolation center,’ which is a minimally converted school. They are isolated for 5 days, given the PCR COVID-19 test, and if tested positive, are sent to the Military Hospital. If they test negative, they must remain 5 more days before being PCR tested again.”

The report corroborated prior revelations from Cuban independent media that the “isolation centers” were poorly run camps where potential coronavirus patients were kept close enough together that the virus may have been spreading within the facility. Authorities also provided nearly inedible food to those forced to stay there, many reports emphasized. Cubanet, a dissident online outlet, published photographs of one of the “meals” at a camp in Havana that appeared to feature two boiled eggs, a piece of boiled unidentified root vegetable, and rice.

Among the most alarming revelations in the GLA report is the fact that the Cuban government is using unproven interferon treatments on people who test positive for coronavirus and are thus moved from the converted school facility to the military hospital camp.

“In some cases, a COVID-negative person can accompany patients in the hospital. The COVID-negative companions are given drops of Nasalferon … twice daily to prevent contagion, while the COVID-positive patients are given interferon shots,” the GLA report detailed.

The confirmation echoes reports in Cuban state media boasting that nasal interferon treatments (nasalferon) would be available for at-home use to individuals who test positive for Chinese coronavirus but do not require hospitalization.

Interferons are antivirals that can generate extreme side effects in individuals. Some preliminary studies have shown that one interferon, Interferon-beta, may have some positive effects in fighting infections of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a disease caused by a different coronavirus. No studies suggest a similar possibility of positive effects against the Chinese coronavirus. Cuba has spent the past year promoting the use of a different interferon, Interferon-alpha 2b, against Chinese coronavirus, despite the lack of scientific evidence for the treatment.

“When the Government of Cuba assures that the Interferon developed in Cuba cures the coronavirus, it is committing a serious crime against world public health, since this drug not only lacks any scientific proof, but also where it has been tested has already given null results of encouragement,” a group of doctors denounced in April 2020 in response to the campaign, in a statement via the human rights organization Cuban Prisoners Defenders.

The interferon treatment could “kill, rather than cure patients,” the doctors warned.

Cuba has received minimal international support from the scientific community in its pursuit of interferon treatment. Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela initially promoted in early 2020, but even this reliable ally has pivoted to domestically produced false cures, such as the administration of toxic ozone gas to coronavirus patients.

At least one nation – South Africa – has bought into the interferon theory. South African officials recently revealed that the nation’s military bought doses of Interferon-alpha-2b from Havana in the last year. It remains unclear how the military managed to purchase the unproven treatment, where the 260 million rand ($16.8 million) came from to buy the antivirals, or who would have access to them. The South African Defense Force set up an ad-hoc task team this week to investigate the purchase.

The GLA report on Cuba’s coronavirus camps also raised concerns about the competence of Cuba’s medical staffers.

“According to reports, however, the medical professionals are not documenting people’s health conditions and status accurately,” the report noted. “They have tried to give interferon to COVID-negative companions instead of the COVID patient, and have tried to give excessive doses of Interferon to patients, allegedly due to poor documentation.”

Staffers also reportedly do nothing to maintain a sanitary environment in the camps, meaning patients are forced to do their own cleaning.

“The cleanliness in the center is ‘awful,’ with patients having to clean most spaces themselves, which further contributes to contamination,” the report detailed. “The only space cleaned by staff is the common walkway between beds; everything else is left dirty. No bleach is available unless patients befriend cleaning staff.”

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