HAVANA, (Reuters) – Cuban state media reported on Saturday interprovincial transportation would be shut down and a curfew in Havana extended until the end of the month as a surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital spreads to other areas.
While most of the country remains at a new normal with schools and retail activity open, local authorities have been tightening enforcement of wearing masks, social distancing and other measures for fear of spread and imposing quarantines wherever cases appear.
Cuba had mostly contained its novel coronavirus outbreak by the end of June, by isolating patients and contacts, and eased lockdown restrictions. But it tightened them again in Havana by August and has yet to contain a spike in cases there with around 200 reported over the last week.
There have been smaller outbreaks in a handful of Cuba’s 14 provinces.
Now central Ciego de Avila province has suffered the worst outbreak to date after Havana with cases reaching 28 of 60 reported in the country Saturday. All but a few of the remainder were in Havana.
One hundred patients were moved to a hospital in neighboring Camaguey province from Ciego de Avila on Thursday due to a shortage of hospital space.
In August, a brigade of nurses marched off from eastern Granma province to the capital as if they were some of the 4,000 medical staff sent abroad to battle the pandemic.
While just under 4,700 cases have been reported since the first one in March and only 108 deaths, the U.S. embargoed Caribbean nation has been all but bankrupted by the pandemic’s toll on tourism, remittances, investment and trade.
Economic growth is now forecast to drop by close to 10 percent this year according to various international organizations and there are long lines for basic goods and shortages of certain foods and medicines.