Cigar factories in Honduras are preparing for a second wave of closures after the government has ordered them to be shuttered as of Wednesday due to a flare up of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several manufacturers have confirmed the news to halfwheel, and NCI-Danli, a news organization in the area, posted on its Facebook page that both the city of Danlí and the district of El Paraiso would be returning to “la fase cero,” Spanish for zero phase, on July 22. According to the report, which specifically mentioned that cigar factories would be closing, zero phase means that only pharmacies, supermarkets, and gas stations will be open. Canal 24 Danlí, a local television station, added that the agronomy industry will also be allowed to continue operating.
Danlí is the home of the Honduran cigar industry, located in the southern part of the country, about 65 miles northwest of Estelí, the main home of the Nicaraguan industry. Last year, the U.S. imported 60.3 million cigars from Honduras.
Several manufacturers have already confirmed to halfwheel that they have either begun closing or will be doing so in the coming days.
Oscar Valladares said that he closed his factory in Danlí this past Monday due to the growing prevalence of COVID-19 cases in the area, and so far is the first to confirm closing ahead of the requirement.
George Rico of Gran Habano said that he is preparing to close down tomorrow, July 18, after getting word from local officials that a shutdown was set to be announced. Rico said that he was told that the mandated closure will last for at least 15 days, adding that the last time he was told that, it ended up being between seven and eight weeks.
Dr. Gaby Kafie of Kafie 1901 Cigars, along with Nish Patel of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, which operates out of Plasencia’s El Paraiso factory, both confirmed that their respective companies would be suspending operations in Honduras as of Wednesday as news of the announcement began circulating.
This is the second government-mandated closure in Honduras this year, the first coming in March as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit the area. That closure happened with just six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, but that number stands at 30,867 cases as of Friday evening—including the president of the country—with 835 confirmed deaths.
Charlie Minato contributed to this story.