Two of the Dominican Republic’s largest cigar factories have reopened this week after closing down due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Tabacalera de García in La Romana, the largest premium cigar factory in the world, reopened yesterday with a limited staff. The factory—which produces the Dominican versions of Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and others—is using this week to test social distancing measures and to establish protocols to meet new government rules.
General Cigar Dominicana, a factory that produces Macanudo and the Dominican version of Cohiba, is more or less doing the same: a small group of workers spaced out far more than they would have been prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Like nearly every other factory in the Dominican Republic, they have been closed since March 20.
Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), which owns General Cigar Dominicana, also has two other factories in the country—General Cigar Mao and Agio Tobacco Co.—but they remain closed.
In addition to the premium cigar factories, sources told halfwheel that Swedish Match and Swisher International have both resumed machine-made cigar operations in the Dominican Republic.
Because this week is Holy Week, it was already planned to be a shortened week and serves as a test to see if factories can meet the government’s requirements for social distancing. It is expected that more premium cigar factories will open in reduced capacities on Monday.
Despite its relatively small population, the Dominican Republic has had one of the highest percentages of infections in Latin America, though that could be due to more accurate reporting by the country’s government. For context, Cuba—whose population is around 6 percent greater than the Dominican Republic—has reported 396 confirmed cases whereas the Dominican Republic has reported 1,828.
The government’s response has also been one of the more stringent in Latin America, including a daily curfew between 5 p.m.-6 a.m.