Cuba lifts Havana lockdown as coronavirus cases fall

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on Wednesday it was lifting a curfew and partial lockdown in Havana, in place since Sept. 1. to contain a second wave of the new coronavirus.

The governor of Havana Reinaldo García Zapata said cases had dropped to an average of 21 per day over the last week for an infection rate of 0.87 in justifying the decision.

Most of the Caribbean nation began returning to a new normal months ago, though there have been minor and quickly contained outbreaks of the virus in a few provinces and a new surge is still to be contained in central Ciego de Avila province.

Cuba has credited its free community-based health system and strict isolation of the sick and their contacts in preventing the rapid spread of the virus in much of the region.

The Communist-run country has reported just 6,000 cases and 122 deaths from COVID-19 to date. More than 90% of those cases were contacts traced through spreaders.

Over the next week public transportation will resume in Havana, stores will return to normal schedules, and eateries and other services will reopen at 60% capacity.

Schools are scheduled to open in November while airports remain closed.

Wearing masks, social distancing and similar measures remain mandatory and violators face stiff fines.

Garcia said the city of 2.2 million people, 20% of Cuba’s population, would remain isolated from the rest of the country for now.

Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Leslie Adler