HAVANA, May 13 (Xinhua) -- New variants of the coronavirus believed to have entered Cuba in recent months have been linked to higher transmission rates, more severe cases of disease and an increase in deaths in the Caribbean country, the official daily Granma said on Thursday.
Public Health Minister Jose Angel Portal said coronavirus variants first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have been circulating in Cuba, and all three are suspected of being more infectious and possibly more lethal and resistant to current vaccines, according to the daily.
Portal said a study of serious and critical cases in the capital Havana showed the variant which was first discovered in South Africa was present in 87.7 percent of the patients, and 68.1 percent of those infected died in recent months.
Havana is the region hardest hit by the pandemic, with a wide variety of variants in circulation.
Home to about 2 million people, Havana this week began a large-scale vaccination campaign with two nationally-developed vaccine candidates against COVID-19, Soberana-02 and Abdala. Vaccination is expected to conclude in August with the immunization of about 1.7 million residents.
Cuba has more vaccines in the pipeline, including Soberana-01, Soberana Plus and Mambisa, which are in different phases of clinical trials, but only its most advanced vaccine candidates are being used in the immunization process.
Cuba is tackling a new wave of infections that led officials to reimpose lockdown measures across the country, such as postponing in-person classes, and closing hotels, bars and restaurants.