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Cuba to lift pandemic restrictions


Cuba to lift pandemic restrictions

Ramon Espinosa AP
Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Cuba will begin lifting pandemic restrictions today as COVID-19 cases continue to fall from a high of over 17,000 new daily cases and 168 deaths on August 5, to only 567 cases and four deaths this Wednesday.

In addition to increased flights, compulsory quarantine for international travelers flying into the country will be lifted today and fully vaccinated arrivals will be granted entry beginning November 15.

The lifting of travel restrictions comes just in time for Cuba’s peak tourism season of mid-November to mid-March. This is highly likely to stimulate the industry, which comprised 10.6% of Cuba’s pre-pandemic GDP and spurred 4.6 million arrivals in 2018. It also provides a litmus test for President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s tentative economic reforms announced in early 2021 in response to tourist arrivals plummeting 80% in 2020 and GDP subsequently contracting 11%. The reforms include granting private enterprise a greater share of the predominantly Marxist-Socialist economy. The government, however, will continue to control all industry and wholesalers.

Whether these reforms lead to further market liberalization likely depends on the success of this upcoming tourism season. However, the pandemic downturn has likely strengthened Diaz-Canel’s ability to sell these ‘China model’ reforms to ideologically skeptical factions of the one-party state.

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