translated from Spanish: Cuba begins «new normal» with challenge of overcoming economic crisis

Havana.- Restaurants, beach and public transport but with mask and distances: since this Friday all Cuba is already officially in the recovery phase and once the battle has been won to the coronavirus, the next challenge will be to overcome the serious economic crisis affecting the island, aggravated by the pandemic. Havana was the last Cuban region to join a three-time de-escalation that had already begun two weeks ago across most of the country, and is the only place where there is still a drop-off of cases – less than ten a day on average.
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With 2,361 SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus contagions to date and 86 dead, the Caribbean island has managed to keep the virus at bay compared to other countries with a similar number of inhabitants, thanks to a strategy based on the immediate tracking and isolation of confirmed, suspicious cases and the contacts of both. The capital had been eagerly awaiting the green light for days to officially join the rest of the country in the recovery, although informally, as many Cubans ironized lately, the city «had been in phase 1 for more than a month.» FINALly, THE MARY is that for weeks it was obvious that in the havana streets there was much more traffic, people on the street, and even children playing. Confinement was never mandatory, but the authorities had asked the population to only take to the streets to the essentials and wrongly trusted that the absence of public transport would limit mobility. Among the restrictions that today were erected in the capital is to go to the beach and the swimming pools (with limited capacity), activities highly anticipated by the habaneros to cope with the overwhelming heat of the Caribbean summer. The beaches near the city did not dawn full, but many young people and children who in small groups of family or friends set out to enjoy the sand and the sea on this first day.

Several people enjoy a swim on the beach on Friday during the first day of reopening in the Cuban capital since the pandemic began, in Havana. / Photo: EFE.

«I was waiting for him a while ago,» he told Efe Ulysses, a 17-year-old student who has spent the last three months at home, studying and helping his mother with housework. Like his friend Harrison, 14, for whom the day proved «perfect» and who is also excited to be able to visit the family he has not seen since the pandemic’s day began. Jessica, a 19-year-old librarian, said she couldn’t sleep with emotion last night because «four months ago I didn’t go out and wanted to be early on the beach,» while Mildred Rodriguez, a 45-year-old telecom operator, was also «looking forward to it» and wanted to come the first day in case coronavirus cases increase and restrictive measures are decreed again.

Photo: EFE.

«A CLEAN PIERNA»Another expected return is that of public transport, in a country where very few people can afford to buy their own car. Buses began rolling again on Friday with limited capacity and habaneros, who for weeks have walked what is not written and also dusted off bicycles, line up again at the «guagua» stops, a typical city print that the pandemic erased for three months.» We were walking around a lot with the problem of transport restriction, today it’s starting to get a little better,» said Efe Hector Rómura, a 77-year-old fisherman back home after spending the night on the rover.

View this Friday of the interior of a bus during the first day of reopening in the Cuban capital since the pandemic began, in Havana. / Photo: EFE.

The fishermen have also returned to the havana boardwalk, the most beloved and busy place in the city, desert since the end of March. Belkis Ortiz, a 50-year-old housewife, took the wait with humor while recalling these weeks without transport, «on a clean leg the Cuban, struggling…». Gradual reactivation also includesat the first stage the reopening of bars and restaurants, although those in the private sector – the famous «palates» – take it easy and not all have returned immediately.

Several people eat this Friday at the Coppelia ice cream parlour, during the first day of reopening in the Cuban capital. / Photo: EFE.

Among the concerns of this non-state sector that has flourished in recent years is that of the supply. In Cuba there are no wholesale markets and they must fill their businesses in the same state-owned shops as the rest of the population, but the undersupply and capacity constraints have led to long queues and waiting hours in order to buy commodities. THE COLAS REMAINAs the mask, hygienic measures or social distance, «the queues also came to stay», say these days Cubans with causticism, accusing the tiredness of an economic crisis, another, that is sharpened for days. The country’s lack of foreign exchange, intensified by the decline in Venezuelan aid and new US sanctions, has worsened with the pandemic, which forced the crirony of the tourism sector, one of the main sources of income for both the state and self-employed. During this first phase of reopening Cubans will be able to do local tourism, but regular flights and the arrival of foreign tourists will not resume normally until the third phase. In the second phase in which today almost the entire country but the capital and the neighboring Matanzas entered, charter flights are allowed only to the keys of the north and south coasts of the island, without visitors having access to the rest of the country or contact with the local population except with hotel workers. The authorities have not established a fixed timetable for phase changes, which will depend on the evolution of the health and epidemiological indicators in each province.

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Original source in Spanish

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