By Laura Becquer
Havana, Oct 11 (EFE).- People are returning to the restaurants and beaches of Havana now that the Cuban government has dialed back pandemic restrictions following a significant drop in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
Fewer than 4,000 new cases are detected each day, on average, down 61 percent from the peak in August, amid a mass inoculation campaign using vaccines developed in Cuba.
Making the rounds of restaurants and cafes in Havana, one sees people wearing masks when not eating or drinking and maintaining social distance, as well as some who appear to think that being vaccinated makes them safe from the virus that has infected more than 900,000 Cubans and killed nearly 8,000.
The liberalization in the capital and other population centers, including Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second city, comes ahead of the start on Nov. 15 of a gradual re-opening to international visitors.
Lisbet Sanchez told Efe that people should adhere to the health guidelines to ensure that normalization continues, “because the pandemic has not been easy.”
The 51-year-old Havana housewife was enjoying the beach with family and friends including Ana Leydis Diaz, 32, an engineer who described herself as “delighted with the opening.”
But Pablo Ruiz, a teacher of 60, said it was reckless of authorities to reopen the beaches “with four police officers for thousands of people.”
He said that the government should deploy police or health inspectors to impose discipline on people “drinking alcohol with no distancing whatsoever.”
Strolling along Havana’s famous waterfront, the Malecon, wearing masks, Ismairy and her husband, Daniel, said that people need to get out of their homes to relax and exercise in the fresh air.
Before the pandemic, tourism was Cuba’s second-largest source of hard currency and accounted for around 10 percent of gross domestic product.
The Cuban government halted incoming passenger flights in April 2020, weeks after Covid-19 was detected in the country.
Officials allowed international arrivals to resume in October 2020, only to see a surge in coronavirus cases that appeared to be attributable to the failure of some tourists to follow pandemic protocols.
In January, the government drastically reduced the number of flights from the United States, Mexico, Panama, the Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Colombia.
But with the vaccination program well under way, the Cuban government is eager to begin reviving the tourism sector. EFE