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Monday, October 18, 2021

Havana reopens its beaches, citing high vaccination rate

Officials said the reopening was decided on because 90% of the city's residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus and the number of new cases has been declining.

By: AP | Havana |
Updated: October 1, 2021 12:09:26 pm
People enjoy the bath at the beach of Boca Ciega on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. Authorities in Cuba have begun to relax COVID restrictions in several cities like Havana. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)

Beaches and recreation centers reopened in Cuba’s capital Thursday after authorities announced it was time to resume outdoor activities, including strolling on the Malecon coastal promenade that has long been a gathering place for Havana.

Officials said the reopening was decided on because 90% of the city’s residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus and the number of new cases has been declining.

Some people were quick to take advantage of the announcement and headed to the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.

“The water is delicious, but the girl doesn’t want to bathe, she’s afraid of the sea,” retiree Gladys Gonzalez said of her granddaughter.

“Psychologically this benefits youth and children. Already more than half of the country is vaccinated. You have to trust,” she said.

Yet Gonzalez also said she is “very afraid of openness.” She worries about a possible resurgence of infections, such as the one Cuba experienced following a relaxation late last year after it had kept the pandemic under control.

Roberto Garcia, a kitchen assistant and his wife, Laura, took their children to the city’s Eastern Beaches to get some relief from the strong tropical heat.

“When we saw the news we decided to come to the beach because we have children and we have not enjoyed the summer for two years,” Garcia said. They made sure to observe social distancing.

On Tuesday, the governor of Havana, Reinaldo Garcia Zapata, announced the reopening of beaches, swimming pools, gyms and other spots, adding to relaxations of pandemic restrictions last week, such as shortening the hours of the nighttime curfew and allowing restaurants, cafes and bars to let in customers again and not just make home deliveries.

The Malecon filled up with people Wednesday night, with groups of young people with guitars and even street vendors for the first time since access was closed at the beginning of the year.

Not everything is back to normal, though. “Both in the pools and in the beach areas, the use of the mask is mandatory, except when bathers enter the sea,” said the official newspaper Tribuna de La Habana. Swimming pools are also limited to 50% of capacity.

Authorities also said they would not increase bus service to the beaches, as is normally done in hot weather, and popular food spaces would not be allowed to reopen on the shore.

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