HAVANA – Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said late Thursday that most of the Caribbean island nation will be open to international tourism from next week as it approaches a “new normal” after its coronavirus outbreak is contained.
The country, which closed its borders six months ago to contain the spread of the virus, has gradually opened to tourism ahead of the November to March peak season, first in the Northern Keys and then in its beachfront resort of Varadero.
Thirteen of Cuba’s sixteen provinces will now be open to tourism, Marrero said in a panel discussion sent to the nation, if not yet to the capital, Havana, which has just slowed a second wave of infections with strict measures, including a curfew seems to have.
International tourism is one of the largest hard currency earners in Cuba. This year’s suspension dealt a blow to the financially troubled economy, even as the US tightened its decades-long trade embargo.
“We will open the possibility of international flights for all provinces that are in this third phase,” said Marrero, noting that all arrivals would be tested.
Cuba’s universal, community-based health system has contained its outbreak and decreased mortality by hospitalizing all confirmed cases, tracing and isolating their contacts, and applying a range of therapeutic treatments.
Cuba has reported just 11 deaths from Covid-19 per million population, compared with 203 in the Dominican Republic and 647 in the United States, statistics from Johns Hopkins University show.
That has a price, however.
For example, according to Marrero, the state has paid to bring 115,000 suspected and confirmed cases to isolation facilities. Of these, less than 5% tested positive for the virus.
From now on, Cuba will allow people to isolate at home, Marrero said.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel said at the round table that the country has proven that it has learned to live with the virus, contain its second wave of infections better than the first, and greatly reduce the death rate.
As such, economic and social life could resume while strict anti-COVID measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing would be maintained, he said.
“The pandemic cost us and had a huge impact on our national budget, but we worked on a non-negotiable principle: the main treasure is the lives of the Cuban people,” he said.
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