HAVANA, March 17 (Xinhua) -- For Yosvany Barrios, a 47-year-old Cuban national residing in the United States, coming back home had never taken so long.
Amid efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide, thousands of international passengers who have arrived on the island since early February have been ordered to quarantine for five days either at isolation centers or at hotel facilities allocated by the government.
Barrios flew to Cuba to visit his five-month-pregnant wife who lives in the rural town of San Juan y Martinez, located some 250 km away from the country's capital Havana.
"In pre-pandemic times, I would take a 45-minute flight from Miami to Havana and spend 30 minutes at the customs area for normal procedures before hitting the road to my hometown," Barrios told Xinhua.
"I am desperate to see my wife and my baby-to-be," he said. "But I understand it was necessary to wait a little longer for PCR test results."
As a Cuban resident, he would have been quarantined for free in isolation centers set up by the local authorities, but rather preferred paying to spend the quarantine time at NH Capri Hotel in Havana.
Cuba has set up nearly 20 hotel facilities across the country where international travelers are required to pay for their accommodation and logistics during the quarantine period.
Passengers who are required to be quarantined in Cuban hotels can either book a room in advance through governmental websites or at travel bureaus after arrival.
At NH Capri Hotel there is a crystal-clear pool, a bar and a buffet area, which remain uncommonly empty for guests are to self-isolate in their rooms following compulsory COVID-19 protocols.
So far, of more than 200 guests who had stayed at NH Capri Hotel in March, only four had tested positive for COVID-19. While staying there, travelers are subject to temperature checks and PCR tests conducted by a medical team.
"Epidemiological monitoring is very important to help authorities bring the contagious disease in check amid surging COVID-19 cases," said Jorge Vidaud, a 59-year-old doctor, who works at the quarantine hotel. "We play a critical role here."
The island totally resumed scheduled commercial flights in November 2020, when Havana's Jose Marti International Airport restarted operations after having been closed for more than seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am happy to be back in Cuba," said 45-year-old Jorge Carmona, who also flew from the United States to visit his family in Havana. "My relatives live almost around the corner, but the best way to protect them is being patient."