Cuba opens most of country to tourism as enters "new normality"

HAVANA, Oct 8 (Reuters)   Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said late on Thursday that most of the Caribbean island nation would open to international tourism starting next week as it moved towards a “new normality” after containing its coronavirus outbreak.

The country, which closed its borders six months ago in a bid to contain the spread of the virus, has been gradually opening up to tourism ahead of the November-March high season, first in the northern keys and then its Varadero beach resort.

Thirteen of Cuba’s sixteen provinces will now be open to tourism, Marrero told a roundtable discussion broadcast to the nation, albeit not yet the capital, Havana which only just appears to have curbed the second wave of infections with strict measures, including a curfew.

International tourism is one of Cuba’s top hard currency earners, so its suspension this year has dealt a blow to the cash-strapped economy, even as the United States has continued to harden its decades-old trade embargo.

“We will open the possibility of international flights for all the provinces that are in this third phase,” Marrero said, noting that all arrivals would be tested.

Cuba’s universal, community-based healthcare system has contained its outbreak and reduced mortality by hospitalizing all confirmed cases, tracing and isolating their contacts and applying a raft of therapeutic treatments.

Cuba has reported just 11 deaths from Covid-19 per million inhabitants, compared with 203 for the Dominican Republic and 647 for the United States, statistics from Johns Hopkins University show.

That has come at a cost, however.