HAVANA – Havana was placed on Tuesday under the most restrictive quarantine measures yet imposed by the government since the start of the pandemic, including a curfew starting at 7:00 pm, a ban on anyone leaving the city and heavy fines for people who don’t abide by the new rules.
Authorities say that the resurgence in coronavirus cases in the capital – and they have increased from zero in mid-July to several dozen per day during the second half of August – justifies the restrictions, which will remain in force for at least the next two weeks.
From 7:00 pm until 5:00 am, the streets of the Cuban capital will be empty and monitored by the police, who will punish anyone who emerges from their home on foot or in a vehicle with fines ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 pesos ($80 to $120), an enormous sum in a country where the average state-mandated salary is below $45.
Children, the elderly and disabled people will not be able to go out on the street at any time, and the use of recreational and sports areas will be restricted, alcoholic beverages will be forbidden in public places and parties of any kind will not be allowed.
In addition, entry into and exit from Havana will not be allowed, and thus the city will be isolated from the rest of the country, although certain people will be allowed to leave under extraordinary circumstances.
This measure will eliminate in practice travel by Havana residents to tourist areas in other provinces, and thus some 2,970 hotel reservations that have already been made will be postponed or cancelled and the money reimbursed, according to provincial governments.
The restrictions also include promoting tele-commuting, and the authorities say that more than 118,000 people will be able to work remotely, along with businesses being required to close at 4:00 pm on Monday through Saturday and 1:00 pm on Sunday.
The new measures will remain in force until Sept. 15 if the spread of the coronavirus is not able to be contained.
Since March, Cuba reportedly has confirmed 4,065 coronavirus cases and experienced 95 deaths from COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the country registered another death, as well as 33 new confirmed cases, 23 of them in Havana.
The capital is implementing these restrictions amid a dire economic crisis and a generalized nationwide scarcity of basic products.
In an attempt to improve access to food and hygiene items, 151 new sales points have been set up for the next two weeks at sites where “supplies are scarce,” Havana authorities said.
The city of more than 2 million, which is the epicenter of the pandemic in the communist country, had to cancel its anticipated reopening because of several outbreaks of the virus in other parts of the island.
In recent weeks, Havana has been the only Cuban province to be in “Phase 0,” or the “limited transmission stage” of the coronavirus, with assorted stringent measures already in place such as the suspension of public transport, the closure of most services and the obligatory use of face masks outside the home.
On the rest of the island, most of the districts are in the third and last – or least restrictive – phase of the national reopening plan, except for Artemisa and Mayabeque, where Phase 2 is still in effect, meaning that restrictions are being relaxed on the use of face masks, which are required only in enclosed spaces, local tourism activities under way and services being reestablished at 50 percent capacity.
Because of the situation, Havana did not begin its school year on Tuesday like the rest of the country and also does not intend to reopen its borders with other provinces until the health crisis is over.