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World News

Havana imposes curfew while schools re-open elsewhere in Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) - Pupils returned to school throughout much of Cuba on Tuesday after more than five months, although not in Havana where restrictions including a curfew went into effect due to a surge in coronavirus infections.

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Authorities deemed the coronavirus outbreak contained enough in most of the island to be able to restart classes as long as pupils wear face masks, disinfect their hands upon arrival at school and sit at physically distanced desks.

In Havana and municipalities in four other provinces, classes will be held online until coronavirus outbreaks are under control.

Cuba has credited its free community-based health system and strict isolation of the sick and their contacts for preventing rapid spread of the virus on the Caribbean’s largest island, as it has elsewhere in the region.

The country of 11 million inhabitants has reported just over 4,000 cases and 95 deaths from COVID-19.

But infections rebounded in the capital in early August and spread elsewhere after restrictions were eased in late June.

While some large outbreaks have been traced to a religious gathering, state institutions and a construction site, analysts said the origin of many new cases was unknown and worrisome.

New measures in Havana on Tuesday were designed to prevent movement of people such as traffic restrictions, a ban on shopping outside of one’s neighborhood and limits on interprovincial travel.

For the first time since March, a curfew was imposed in the capital, requiring residents to stay off the streets from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Many Cubans welcomed the new measures in the hope they would curb contagion although some complained they interfered with helping elderly relatives in other neighborhoods or obtaining goods amid widespread shortages.

Scarcity in Cuba has worsened during the pandemic, which has cut off key tourism revenue and increased shipping costs.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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