Cuba will today enforce new restrictions for travelers arriving from eight African countries in response to the Omicron variant.
The new restrictions require travelers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, and Mozambique to present proof of vaccination and take three PCR tests throughout a seven-day quarantine.
Just two weeks ago, the Cuban government loosened COVID-19 restrictions and reopened borders to tourism in a bid to boost a contracted economy. Over the course of the pandemic, Cuba’s usual four million annual tourists dropped to 200,000, causing job losses, restaurant closures, and food shortages.
Cuba was able to reopen to tourism due to its high vaccination rate. More than 90% of the population has received at least one dose of Cuba’s home-grown Soberana vaccine—a statistic used in advertisements by the Tourism Ministry. The vaccine, which is not yet peer-reviewed, boasts a 92% efficacy rate. The Omicron variant, however, may disturb reopening plans.
Expect Cuba to remain cautiously open to tourism, as it is critical for the economy already burdened by sanctions and inflation. To ensure the safety of the population and to keep borders open, expect Cuba’s biotech sector to establish an Omicron-specific vaccine.
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Ava is an Analyst and regular contributor to the Daily Brief. She focuses on political and economic developments across Latin America and the Caribbean.