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My shed is my castle: one Cuban's move to self-isolate

HAVANA (Reuters) - Rafael Viguera is taking no risks. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he has traded in his comfortable house in Havana for his roadside, tiny wooden juice shack out by the fortress overlooking the city bay to self-isolate.

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The 55-year-old considers that up on the sparsely populated hillside from which Spanish soldiers used to fend off pirates, he is safe from the highly contagious virus that has infected around 2,000 in the city sprawling below.

He can also better look after his hut that usually sells lemonade, coconut water and mojitos to tourists but has been closed for business ever since the Caribbean island nation in March shut its borders and ordered a lockdown.

The suspension of public transport means his night custodian cannot make it to work and he is worried about vandals.

“I feel protected here in my little home,” said Viguera, who usually lives in a residential, western Havana district with his sister and nephew. “I miss being with my family but I chat with them by phone.”

Viguera sleeps on a camping bed in the 3.5 meter by 2.5 meter shed and leaves the front flap open to prevent it heating up too much in the fierce summer sun. A friend brings him food and water.

In the evenings, he sometimes wanders over to the cantine for the soldiers who work at the fortress to get a hot meal, trusting it follows COVID-19 hygiene recommendations to the letter.

They welcome him with open arms, he says, as he used to work there too until he decided to go it alone, setting up shop in Cuba’s fledgling private sector.

Now he struggles to live off his savings as there has been no financial aid for those who are self-employed.

While Cuba has done a fairly successful job at containing its coronavirus outbreak, Viguera says he will ride it out in his hut until the end.

“I wish the illness would end now so I could go home,” he said. “But I will be here until there isn’t a single case, until the pandemic is over.”

Reporting by Alexandre Meneghini; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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