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Cuba Had COVID-19 Under Control — Except In Havana. Now Comes A 'Severe' Curfew

Ramon Espinosa
A man wearing a protective mask sits alone this week on Havana's seawall, the Malecon, as a strict curfew to control COVID-19 goes into effect.

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.

Cuba has reported about 4,000 COVID-19 cases and fewer than a hundred deaths. It’s considered one of the western hemisphere’s pandemic success stories.

But it hasn’t been able to subdue the novel coronavirus where it counted most: Havana, where cases suddenly surged last month thanks to what officials say was too many nighttime parties in private houses and increasingly lax attitudes in the capital.

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So on Tuesday night Havana initiated a strict, two-week-long curfew that begins at 7 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m. Traffic in and out of the city of more than 2 million people will be “severely restricted,” according to officials. And residents will only be able to shop at stores in their own neighborhoods.

The start of the school year has also been postponed in the capital city, and only workers deemed most essential are allowed to go to their jobs.

Fines for violators will be heavy: as much as $125, or about five months’ salary for average Cuban workers — and punishment could also include jail time. Many Cubans also complain the restrictions make it even harder to find basic foods and goods, already in short supply there.

In mid-September the government will evaluate whether the lockdown needs to be extended.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.