Fri, 06 Aug 2021

HAVANA, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Cuba is taking care of tourists stranded on the island due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, providing them with accommodations, health checkups and more.

Chinese tourist Wang Changdong is one of nearly 30 foreign visitors staying at the Villa Bacuranao Hotel on the outskirts of Cuba's capital Havana, where the government has put up travelers unable to fly home amid the global health emergency, which has disrupted air travel.

The 28-year-old businessman came to marry his Cuban girlfriend, but the lockdown put a halt to his plans until the country returns to normal.

"I feel at home here. Cuba has provided us with everything we need to have a pleasant stay despite the virus," Wang said.

Cuba announced in late March it would suspend international arrivals, which has affected some 4,000 tourists who have since passed through Villa Bacuranao after their bookings at hotels and other lodgings ended.

Among them is Roberto Brundu, a 47-year-old Italian taxi driver.

"I am lucky to be here," he said, adding "I thank the two Cuban medical brigades that are combating COVID-19 in Italy for their support."

Tourists at the seafront hotel have received additional medical attention, such as getting their temperatures taken twice a day as part of the measures to monitor COVID-19 symptoms.

So far, no guests have tested positive, although suspected cases have been taken to hospital, according to Ariana Ravelo, a 46-year-old doctor at Villa Bacuranao.

"The Cuban public health system has adopted all the measures for them to stay healthy and safe," Ravelo said.

Villa Bacuranao is one of 129 properties operated by Cuban hotel chain Islazul, which is also a leading property rental manager on the island.

"We have readjusted the price of services due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Modesto Hernandez, general manager of Villa Bacuranao.

In addition, "Cuba has covered the accommodation expenses of tourists who have run out of money and received support from embassies. The safety of tourists is our paramount priority," Hernandez said.

While Cuba's Ministry of Tourism said flights will remain suspended for now, in line with guidelines to protect national health security, authorities announced a charter flight operated by national carrier Cubana de Aviacion will fly a group of stranded tourists from Havana to Mexico on June 14.

Cuba has had a relatively mild outbreak, with 2,119 cases and 83 deaths from COVID-19 by Thursday.

New cases per day have fallen from a peak of nearly 70 in early May to fewer than 40 in the past three weeks, which makes Wang optimistic that his Cuban wedding will take place soon.

Meanwhile, Cuba is working on developing hygiene and health protocols for the restart of tourism, said Marilyn Espinosa, head of the communications department at Islazul.

"Cuba has always been a safe destination and will continue to be. New health protocols will be required so that tourists who choose Cuba in the future feel they have made the right decision," she said.

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