by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Cuba started Friday easing COVID-19 restrictions with restaurants and cafeterias reopening indoor service.
In Havana, the country's capital and most populous city with 2 million residents, hundreds of people returned to their favorite restaurants and eateries.
"It feels great to finally being able to catch up with some friends after so long," said local engineer Silvio Abreu, who invited a couple of friends out for lunch. "Dining out is always pleasant."
Under new regulations put in place across eight of the country's 15 provinces, and the Isle of Youth special municipality, customers are allowed to remove masks once they are seated, while waiters are required to regularly wash their hands.
"We are working with caution due to the complex epidemiological situation we are going through," Eliane Aday, a cook working in a Havana diner, told Xinhua.
Meanwhile, Cuba is speeding up the pace of a national COVID-19 immunization campaign, so as to meet the goal of vaccinating over 90 percent of its population by November.
More than 70 percent of people on the island have already received at least the first dose of a homegrown coronavirus vaccine.
Francisco Duran, an official of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, said that clean surfaces, food safety, and ventilation of facilities are fundamental to reduce the risk of contagion with the virus at restaurant and eateries.
"In different territories, the conditions are ripe to resume indoor dining," Duran said.
Reopening restaurants, cafeterias and eateries will help Cuba's economy recover from the impact of the pandemic, according to the country's minister of domestic commerce Betsy Diaz.
"What is most important is to preserve people's health. Hence, by behaving responsibly, we can take steps to recover what we lost," she said.