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Most Cuba Travel Cancelled in February

If you go take a lot of extra money to pay for hotels when in quarantine.

La Tropical. Photo: Juan Suarez

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba’s high tourist season has taken a new hit with a sharp uptick of Covid-19 cases and the government’s cancelling of more flights.

The Cuban Ministry of Tourism was trying to sell itself as a Covid-19 safer destination. They welcomed travelers from countries facing an unprecedented wave of new cases. According to government statistics, cases on the island and deaths are still far less than most places. Nonetheless, positive cases are up over 1,000% in recent months since the airports reopened to international flights.

A perfect storm

The perfect storm includes Cubans who reside abroad, “mules” returning home with needed merchandise, friends, and vacationers. Then, despite admonitions, the visitors gather with family members and friends. Then these same people wait in long crowded lines to buy basic food and hygiene products when available. Many also ride in packed public buses. Need I say more?

Alarmed at the growing number of Covid-19 positives the government is tightening the rules as of February 6th. The new measures, announced Saturday by the chief epidemiologist, Francisco Duran, noted non-compliance with protocols.

While the government said flights to and from the island will now face a further reduction, they do not say exactly which ones.  Of course, this creates chaos for people with plans and tickets already purchased.  Such already happened with the first flight reduction mandated in January, when the majority of flights cancelled. This led hundreds of people to crowd the Havana airport seeking information on their flights. Some feared losing their jobs back home if they didn’t travel.

However, anybody with their head on straight is aware that travel in these times is risky at best. Foreign vacationers be aware that your vacation plans may be greatly modified. This includes freedom of movement restrictions and there may be several added expenses. Be prepared even if you think you have an all-inclusive package.

Some things to have in mind if you are lucky enough to get a flight:

• Foreigners and non-resident Cubans arriving in the country must isolate for several days in designated hotel facilities in each territory. The travelers assume all costs for their stay and transportation.

• Foreign students face isolation in the institutions designated for this purpose by the Ministries of Health and Higher Education.

• Traveling Cuban residents’ isolation takes place in authorized centers in the provinces free of cost. Likewise, their transportation expenses to the center and back to their residence once the isolation is over.

The additional flight reductions are for airlines operating from the USA, Mexico, Panama, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic. Flights cancellations from Jamaica and Colombia join the list starting February 6th.

Meanwhile, flights to Nicaragua, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname and Haiti are suspended. These countries are mostly visited by Cubans who purchase products to resell on the shortage-plagued island. Some also trampoline to begin the long journey towards the US border to seek asylum.

The government said it will allow some flights to evacuate stranded foreigners and Cubans who reside abroad.

Civil Aeronautics director Mercedes Vazquez said Cuba hopes to return to more normal travel possibilities as soon as possible.  She noted for the official media that also depends on the lifting of drastic measures by other countries.

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The balance between tourist/mule money and covid cost, that is some brutal math to calculate.

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