14ymedio, Havana, 17 September 2021 — Among the announcements of the reopening of tourism in Cuba for November 15, even with the health risks that this implies, the official press announced that from August 2 to September 10, 1,731 swimmers were fined for “violating regulations” and endangering their own life and that of other people.
This iron fist is wielded against Cuban swimmers, who were fined between 2,000 and 3,000 pesos, while at the International Hotel in Varadero, one of the 15 currently operating and with 20% occupancy, foreign tourists are allowed to enjoy the sun and seashore without limitations.
In August alone, on the social networks of the Sol Palmeras hotel complex, in Varadero, foreign visitors could be seen in images enjoying the beach without any health-related restriction.
The delegate of the Ministry of Tourism in Matanzas, Ivis Fernández Peña, told the AFP agency on September 8 that they “managed to turn” Varadero into a haven of sun and beach. Since April only “0.1% of the more than 50,000” tourists received have tested positive for covid-19, said the delegate.
The State newspaper Granma took up the information on the fines for swimmers and emphasized that it is a measure to confront “indiscipline in beach areas” with the application of Decree Law 31, which regulates the protocol at the current stage.
The offenders, it was said, were “detected” at the intersections of 1st and 70th streets in La Puntilla, and on the beach at 16th and La Concha, “a situation that increases on weekends,” with the deployment of the police in the municipalities of Playa and La Habana del Este.
It is even forbidden to sit on the emblematic wall of the Malecón or even walk along the sidewalk closest to the sea, a measure that has fueled the anger of Havanans, used to spending long hours enjoying the sea breeze, meeting friends or listening to some music in what they call “the longest bench in the world,” one several kilometers long.
For its part, Tribuna de La Habana also referred to 63 people fined in “East Havana, including the Camilo Cienfuegos district, and 51 in the municipality of Playa.” Hence, the president of the Defense Council in the capital, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, and the governor, Reinaldo García Zapata, demanded “greater rigor” from the authorities and called on “the public to respect health measures and standards.”
Havana, a coastal city with an ancient tradition of swimming along its coastline, has gone through the hot summer with its beaches and Malecon closed to those who want to take a dip, even if they just want to get close to the waters to cool off in the middle of the intense heatwave.
The closure of the East Beaches to swimmers, the most popular in the capital, has been a severe blow to the entire economic network of towns such as Santa María, Boca Ciega and Guanabo, in which a large part of the families survive by renting rooms, serving food or managing other entertainments for those who come looking for a quiet day in front of the sea.
Instead, Guanabo has practically become a ghost town, in which the few restaurants and cafes that continue to offer their services to the public only do so via take away and do not allow any customers to sit in their premises. The sands are constantly patrolled by uniformed men who warn those who arrive that they cannot swim.
These strict restrictions have been highly questioned, not only by those who point out the devastating economic effect it has on the private fabric of the area, but also remember that open and ventilated places are the least risky for getting COVID-19. Critics question the fact that state stores are kept open behind closed doors and with long lines, while families who want to enjoy the sea breeze are penalized.
According to information from the Ministry of Health, in the last seven days, Havana has registered 40 deaths from covid-19 and 4,028 infections. This Friday it reported 501 cases and four deaths: two in Boyeros, one in Marianao and one in San Miguel del Padrón.
The sanctions released this month are in addition to the 549 imposed between February and July of this year by the control and supervision bodies of the Havana government and the police. The highest incidence was detected in the popular councils of Guanabo and Cojímar.
In July of this year the opening of beaches was denied. On the 21st of that month, the figures for the pandemic showed 1,222 infections by covid-19, for a total of 7,745 cases. “When the epidemiological situation of the territory improves and access to these areas is approved, the news will be duly reported by the relevant official media,” the capital’s government networks announced.
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