by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Public transportation was suspended, onsite dining at restaurants was canceled, and beaches were left empty after new lockdown restrictions were reimposed in Havana as Cuba on Monday reported 93 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day count since the start of the pandemic on the island in March.
Julio Cruz, 55, manages a fast-food restaurant in Havana's Vibora district, which reopened its doors in early July after three months of staying shut as the Cuban capital struggled to contain the spread of the virus.
However, new lockdown restrictions have led him to turn its restaurant into a takeaway, cutting about 40 percent of its staff as the pandemic threatens small businesses nationwide to close.
Cruz, who is one of more than half a million Cubans working for the private sector on the island, said that staying safe during the health emergency is the paramount priority although money is needed to live.
"Sales have decreased significantly during the pandemic because people are reluctant to go outside," he said. "I will continue working for the benefit of my family and the island's economy as well."
New coronavirus cases dropped to zero in Cuba on July 20 for the first time after the onset of the pandemic, but have been surging since July 24 to date.
Havana, the country's epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, has so far recorded the majority of confirmed cases over the past two weeks, followed by the neighboring province of Artemisa.
Residents in the Cuban capital have been requested not to go outside, except for essential reasons, as checkpoints have been placed on borders between the capital and the rest of the country.
Stores and shopping centers remain open as new sales outlets have been set up at the very heart of neighborhoods to facilitate people's purchasing of food and other daily necessities.
Authorities have said that among fundamental causes of the outbreak are religious gatherings, parties and breaking of social distancing rules in public areas.
The National Botanical Garden, parks, and swimming pools have been closed as bars and night clubs are not allowed to operate.
In Guanabo, located some 25 km east of the city's entertainment district, the entrance of people has been banned again until better times come for beachgoers.
"Life was slowly returning to normal but all of a sudden everything changed and now we should give a step back to help the government control the disease. For the moment I am getting accustomed to the idea that the office is two minutes from my bed," said Yeni Hechavarria, a Cuban state employee who works from home during the lockdown.
Cuban Minister of Public Health Jose Angel Portal Miranda urged people to keep physical distancing protocols and be responsible to protect the entire population from the virus.
"Nothing is more important than people's lives and health. Indeed, the strict fulfillment of sanitary measures in the context of COVID-19 is indispensable," he said on TV. "Health workers will continue fighting for life."
In Cuba, people who test positive for the virus are rushed to hospitals as suspected cases are taken by state vehicles to isolation centers for testing, monitoring, and possible medical treatment they could need.
Cuban doctor Nuris Liem Herrera is very busy these days, working at a COVID-19 isolation hospital set up at Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute in Havana.
"Rigorous hand washing, social distancing, and the use of facemasks are here to stay for a long time. Cuban health workers will be on the frontline fighting against the virus as long as needed," she said.
"COVID-19 pandemic is not stronger than us," she added.
So far, Cuba has registered 3,046 confirmed cases with 88 deaths. Enditem