After a year and a half of pandemic and total closure to tourism, Cuba is preparing to reopen its borders to international tourism. And it will do so shortly, from mid-November, when 90% of Cubans will be vaccinated and Covid-19 infections will continue the downward trend.
The restart of the tourist industry is vital for the island, which has been subjected for years to the American economic “blockade” made even more severe by the ban on docking for American cruises by former President Trump.
In the first eight months of this year, 163,700 visitors entered the country, 95% fewer than in the same period in 2019, a nightmare for the country that is suffering one of the worst periods in its troubled history. GDP fell by 11% last year.
The pandemic has forced unimaginable restrictions on international tourism. Only three locations open, Havana, Cayo Coco and Varadero with hundreds of hotels closed.
From the beginning of this year the few visitors had to show a negative PCR performed 72 hours before the flight and the international vaccination certificate was not accepted.
Now, from November 15, we want to bring the country back to normal by opening all tourist destinations, reactivating all excursions, tours and above all facilitating entry procedures.
In fact, starting from that date, the international vaccination certificate will be accepted, unvaccinated visitors will have to submit a negative PCR result and the health and hygiene protocols will be focused on symptoms and temperature detection and with random diagnostic tests, antigen tests. or PCR.
Since the first cases of Coronavirus were detected in 2020, Cuba has closed its borders and established various measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic, including mandatory quarantine for all travelers, mobility restrictions and curfews.
While sacrificing tourism, the closure was effective for the first eight months, and the number of infections was limited to a few dozen cases per day.
But at the beginning of 2021 the epidemiological situation got out of control and cases grew exponentially to an average of 8000 per day.
Now the entire Cuban scientific community agrees that the curve is fortunately going down.
Cuba, renowned throughout the world for its medicine, has chosen to vaccinate the population with its own vaccines.
There are currently three of them: Soberana 02, Abdala and Soberana Plus, approved this summer by the Cuban regulatory agency and which health authorities will now submit to the international approval process by the WHO.
Three doses are planned with an efficacy, according to the research centers that developed them, of 92%, equal to that of Pfizer, Jansen or Moderna.
According to the MinSan, at the moment about 38% of the 11 million Cubans are already immunized, while over 42% have two doses and 54.5% one. The goal is to have 90% of the population vaccinated by November 15, when the high season will begin and the country will open up to tourism, eliminating most of the restrictions in force so far.
Before the pandemic, tourism contributed over $ 3 billion to the national economy and about 19% of total income from exports of goods and services.
Today these figures have collapsed, although the woes of the Cuban tourism sector began even before the pandemic.
In 2019 the forecast was to receive 4.7 million tourists, but due to American sanctions (cruises, direct flights and restrictions on North Americans) the number of visitors has dropped to 4.2 million.
And then from November 15 off all restrictions to enter the island, and perhaps only then Cuba will be able to start thinking about a return to an almost normal life.