14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2020 — While residents in the El Carmelo neighborhood in Havana were preparing this Friday for strict isolation of the area, local authorities reversed the initial plan and decided not to fully apply a quarantine that originally included a requirement for passes to enter and leave the area.
The measure announced by the capital’s government on Thursday regarding the isolation of the neighborhood has been softened after fear spread among the residents of a possible worsening of access to basic supplies, at a time when the country is suffering from a food shortage.
The president of Havana’s Provincial Defense Council, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, calmed the spirits and provided new details on the ways in which the isolation will be carried out. Safe-conduct passes will only be implemented if positive cases are found to have increased after inquiries that are being carried out house by house, the official said.
El Carmelo, located in the central district of El Vedado and with a population of more than 29,000 inhabitants, is also an area with many houses that rent rooms to tourists, and numerous private restaurants and leisure spaces. These factors may have influenced its becoming the place with the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Cuban capital, according to Tribuna de La Habana.
Torres Iríbar said that since eight o’clock on Friday night social isolation measures have increased, but that more stringent measures that would be considered quarantine have not yet been applied. At first, there was talk of installing “four to six” entrances and exits through which public transport buses could not pass. But this measure was revoked.
“Last night it looked like they were going to close the neighborhood, they brought metal fences in several trucks and deployed a large number of police officers. Then, at around seven-thirty they retreated on that,” a resident of the area told 14ymedio. “They explained that they are no longer going to limit entry and exit, that they are going to leave it to people’s consciousness.”
According to this resident, Friday was a day when the entire neighborhood took to the streets to stock up on food and basic necessities. “In less than four hours I stood in three lines, one to buy food, another to buy vegetables and another to buy soaps and shampoo which weren’t in any other store.”
The troubadour Ray Fernández, a resident of the neighborhood, improvised some verses in which he reflects the concern for food and suggests to the authorities that they offer the population the resources destined for hotels. “We are not asking for songs / We are not being selfish / But now that there are no tourists / Give the people the shrimp / Send cheeses and hams,” the singer-songwriter posted on his Facebook account.
The updated official information emphasized that, “the residents of El Carmelo must remain at home, except for those who carry out essential work outside. It was clarified that all basic services in commerce, food services, the food industry and drinking water, collection of urban waste, offers from CIMEX, Tiendas Caribe and Palmares are guaranteed.” A bank, ATMs and mail will also continue to operate.
In addition, the disinfection of the bus stops that are located in that area has been arranged. According to a note published this Saturday in the state newspaper Granma, social isolation will also extend to the Cerro municipality “taking into account the appearance of several confirmed cases of Covid-19.”
Torres Iríbar said that isolation measures would also be evaluated in “the places with the highest incidence in Eastern Havana,” although he did not specify which areas these would be.
So far in Havana there are 427 suspected and 71 diagnosed cases; of these, 19 cases are residents of the Plaza of the Revolution municipality.