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Cuba Locks Down Havana To Stop Covid-19 As Cubans Struggle To Afford Everyday Items

Cuba has been one of the hemisphere’s coronavirus success stories — but a sudden outbreak in its capital has brought on a strict, two-week Havana lockdown. Residents of the capital city will be forced to stay-at-home for 15-days, while people from other parts of the island ill be prohibited from visiting – essentially sealing off the city from the outside world.

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic has pummeled the island’s economy and has left many everyday items out of reach for many Cubans. Some are being forced to turn to ‘dollar stores,’ where the U.S. dollar is once again accepted as hard currency – something now allowed since 1993.

Officials have ordered a strict 15-day lockdown of Havana in an effort to stamp out the spread of Coronavirus in the capital.

Aggressive anti-virus measures, including closing down air travel, have virtually eliminated COVID-19 in Cuba with the exception of Havana, where cases have surged from a handful a day to dozens daily over the last month. 

A daily curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. was instituted Tuesday. Most stores are barred from selling to shoppers from outside the immediate neighborhood in order to discourage people from moving around the city. 

Some Havana residents complained that the measures were complicating the already difficult task of buying food in a city hit by constant shortages and endless lines for a limited supply of basic goods. Some provinces that saw no new cases for weeks have begun detecting them in recent days, often linked to travelers from Havana.

The start of in-person classes for students was also indefinitely delayed in Havana, while schools opened normally in the rest of Cuba.

To enforce the lockdown, police stationed on every road leaving Havana are supposed to stop anyone who doesn’t have a special travel permit, which is meant to be issued only in extraordinary circumstances.

Under the strict new lockdown measures, anyone who is found in violation of the stay-at-home orders face fines of up to $125 per violation, more than triple the average monthly wage.

The island nation had seemed to manage the pandemic well – with fewer cases than many of its Caribbean neighbors.

Credit: Ivan Bor / Getty Images

The island of 11 million people has reported slightly more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with fewer than 100 deaths, one of the lowest rates in the region.

The government made face masks obligatory in the early stages of its pandemic response, and in the first months of the crisis police aggressively fined and even jailed people for violations. 

That vigilance slackened somewhat as Havana moved out of the first, strictest phase of lockdown in July, when public transportation restarted and people returned to work. The number of coronavirus cases then began to climb again.

Meanwhile, the Cuban economy has tanked and residents are struggling to make ends meet now more than ever before.

Credit: Yamil Lage / Getty Images

The pandemic has hit the island’s economy particularly hard. Much of the island relies on agricultural and tourism – two sectors that have been decimated by Coronavirus.

As a result, many Cubans are struggling to afford everyday items. Rice – which used to sell for about $13 Cuban pesos per kilo is now going for triple that.

In an effort to allow Cubans better access to goods, the government has began recognizing the U.S. dollar as official currency. This is extraordinary as mere possession of U.S. dollars was long considered a criminal offense. However, the measure draws a line between the haves and have-nots, one that runs even deeper than it did before the pandemic.

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