Havana’s elderly swim again after two years landlocked by pandemic

Havana's elderly swim again after two years landlocked by pandemic

HAVANA, Feb 10   A group of elderly Cubans, including several octogenarians, have begun swimming again off the coast of Havana after nearly two years landlocked

by the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions that complicated exercise outside the home.

Cuba was hit hard by an outbreak of the virus in 2021, prompting health authorities to call for countrywide lockdowns and severe restrictions on movement. But a successful vaccination drive in the otherwise poor nation has prompted a return to normalcy for many.

The elderly swimmers, clad in bright, tight-fitting swim trunks, told Reuters the loosening of restrictions had given them a new lease on life.

“I turned 80 on Dec. 25. Two years of no swimming was tough on me…but I have started to swim, and I am happy again, both physically and mentally,” said Havana resident Fernando Sergio Paneque.

The “masters” swim clubs gather early in the morning, as the sun rises, swimming in shallow, protected areas along the urban coast of Havana.

Cuba, an island nation ringed by clear, tepid waters, is an ideal place for swimming in the sea.

“It’s a wonderful thing to find people of this age, with so much enthusiasm…many of them are overcoming illnesses by (swimming),” said Tania Coffigny, vice president of the Cuban Federation of Master’s Swimming.

Diving into the still, turquoise waters has helped revive many depressed by the months of isolation, said master´s swim club member Orestes Quintana.

“The pandemic affected us because the swim clubs, and the beaches, were closed,” he told Reuters.

He confessed, however, that he and his fellow swimmers had found ways to cope despite the restrictions.

“There were always a few places where one could swim in secret,” he said, chuckling.