After the relaxation of some restrictions in July, Havana went back into lockdown on Monday, after more than 200 coronavirus cases were reported in the last two weeks.
In the capital, public transportation has been suspended starting Monday. The government closed beaches, parks, restaurants, bars and other businesses. Access to Havana is limited to authorized individuals.
Cuban authorities also suspended the licenses that allow private taxi drivers to operate and said the government will guarantee transportation to workers in “essential” activities.
“Health comes first. Despite the economic impact of these [isolation] measures, their application has not been delayed,” said Dr. Francisco Durán, Cuba’s top epidemiologist at a conference on Monday.
The capital eased some restrictions in July, during phase one of the reopening process, but cases began to climb in recent weeks.
“We are in the presence of a new epidemic outbreak that puts our entire population at risk,” said Minister of Public Health José Ángel Portal on Saturday on state television. “The forecast indicates that the situation is about to become uncontrollable.”
On Monday, the Public Health Ministry said there were 93 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number since the country started reporting them in March.
Since Aug. 1, 438 new cases have been found, most in Havana and Artemisa, a nearby province. But the virus is also spreading in Pinar del Río, Villa Clara, and several eastern provinces.
The authorities imposed isolation measures in Camajuaní, a town in Villa Cara, and a night curfew in Pinar del Río. Movement in and out of Pinar del Río is restricted, and those returning to the western province will have to undergo 14 days of isolation in government facilities.
Some of the new infections detected across the country are related to health professionals returning from Venezuela, where the virus has infected more than 20,000 people. But shortly after disclosing the link to Venezuela, the Ministry of Public Health stopped reporting the country of origin of sick travelers.
Several readers of the official Cubadebate media questioned the isolation protocols for those returning from abroad.
“Those travelers who arrive from other countries abroad, why do they have so many [sick] contacts? Aren’t they supposed to go straight to an isolation center?” asked a reader identified as Lic. Ly.
Currently, only Cuban citizens and foreigners with residence can enter the island. The country is accepting some tourists, but only to the nearby keys. The island’s main airport, José Martí in Havana, is still closed for commercial flights.
Over the weekend, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory advising Americans not to travel to Cuba.
As of Monday, the total number of confirmed cases of people with COVID-19 is 3,096, and 88 people have died.
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres