Cuba welcomes millions of tourists every year and the country’s economy mostly relies on tourism. Not only the tourism industry is suffering, Cuba imports almost 60% of its food, due to the closure of borders Cubans are experiencing food shortages as well.
Cuba has only reported over 1000 cases of infection as of April which is much lower than compared to other countries. The country has been fighting Coronavirus since February 24th and up to this date, they have stopped the arrival of all international flights, closed many of their businesses, and put agriculture on hold.
What safety measures have been implemented?
Same as other countries Cuba has closed its borders to all international visitors. The exception applies to those who are returning and hold a Cuban passport. All those who have arrived from abroad must undergo a 14-day self-quarantine to avoid further contamination. The education institutions, as well as markets and private businesses, have been forced to close their doors until further notice. Residents are advised to stay at their homes and only leave for essential reasons like visiting a doctor and purchasing food. All festivals and events have been canceled or postponed and the tourism sector has been put on standstill. Unfortunately, Cuba is experiencing not only food and medicine shortages, but they are also not prepared to fully fight the pandemic, the country is relying on citizens practicing social distancing in order to open businesses as well as agriculture as soon as possible.
What are the travel restrictions?
On the 24th of March, there was released an announcement by the Cuban officials that in order to avoid further spreading of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) all tourists will not be admitted into the country. Later on the 31st of March, the Cuban authorities declared that due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic the arrivals of all international visitor flights are going to be suspended until further notice. The government also denied entry to all foreign sea vessels and boats. Citizens of Cuba are allowed to return to their home country, however, they will have to be self- isolated for 14 days in one of the government facilities.
All foreign visitors that are currently staying in Cuba are urged to stay in their hotels and are only permitted to leave if they are going to the airport.
As of 11th of April Cuban authorities also suspended public transportation nationwide, this applies to public and private transportation means, inter-municipal, and rural routes. Only citizens working in crucial sectors are allowed to travel, however, passengers must wear masks while traveling.
How is this situation affecting business?
The Coronavirus pandemic has put the businesses around the world on hold. Once the pandemic first hit Cuba on the 11th of March, in approximately 2 weeks, the Cuban government shut down schools, closed airports, and demanded foreign visitors to stay in the hotels until their departure. All leisure activities and rental car services have been suspended as well.
Once the businesses were forced to stop their activities, around 139.000 private business owners have decided to put their licenses on hold to avoid paying the monthly fees to the government. Cafes, bars, restaurants, accommodation service providers were obliged to temporarily close their businesses.
There are businesses that try to adapt to the current pandemic situation rather than give up, restaurants are offering home delivery, some shops offer to buy online, the wellness sector offers online tips and classes. Some entrepreneurs hope that this international crisis will convince the Cuban government to allow greater expansion of private business, although within a socialist system.