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Cuba suspends May Day parade over virus worries

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Havana (AFP)

Cuba on Tuesday announced a rare suspension of its May Day parade, a fixture of the country's political calendar since the 1959 Communist revolution, as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic.

The colorful Labor Day parade is a major showpiece event for the island's government and typically brings together more than one million people in the capital Havana each year, according to authorities.

It was last called off in 1994 and 1995 when Cuba faced a severe economic crisis, known as the "special period," after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel told ministers in a meeting carried on state TV that this year's suspension was decided by the country's Political Bureau, presided over by Communist Party leader Raul Castro.

Diaz-Canel asked the Workers Central Union of Cuba, which organizes the event, to offer alternatives in keeping with social distancing -- suggesting the hanging of flags outside homes or a substitute "virtual parade."

Cuba has recorded 186 cases of the COVID-19 illness, with six deaths.

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