Little by Little, Havana Toughens Social Distancing Measures

Havana city officials sounded the alarm over multiple cases of asymptomatic patients who tested positive for Covid-19. Calls to further limit outdoor activity followed. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 9, 2020 – A stay-at-home policy began Wednesday in part of the Havana municipal district of El Cerro,  after an increase in coronavirus cases in that area. This is the second Havana residential neighborhood in which Covid-19 containment measures have been ordered.

Unnecessary movement of individuals will be restricted within the four blocks bordered by Buenos Aires, Agua Dulce, Diana, Carvajal, Serafines, Alejandro Ramírez and Flores streets.

“This is not just a police issue, but one for everybody,” said Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, president of the Provincial Defense Council. “People cannot be walking around and performing activities that don’t have any justification at all.”

City officials sounded the alarm over multiple cases of asymptomatic patients who tested positive. The limits on movement were the response. But officials added that anyone suffering from possible Covid-19 symptoms should see a doctor.

El Cerro is one of the most densely populated districts in the Cuban capital. It is also among the neighborhoods with the most shared-housing units, as well as buildings in bad or substandard condition. In addition, the area suffers from a serious lack of access to water, a condition now worsened by drought.

Reinado García Zapata, the defense council vice-president, added that considerable foot traffic has been observed in areas including the Buenos Aires neighborhood and the Diez de Octubre municipal district. He recommended that it be reduced — raising the expectation that these areas will be the next ones in which control measures are ordered.

Plaza de la Revolución and El Cerro continue to be the areas with the greatest numbers of positive cases. New measures will be taken in Consejo Popular de Lotería, in the Cotorro municipal district.

Stepped-up controls ordered last week in El Carmelo, in the centrally located El Vedado neighborhood, were eventually less strict than expected. Citizens were asked to stay at home except for those who were performing “indispensable” work.

García Zapata requested more control in the inter-provincial transport vehicles that operate under an exception to travel restrictions. He noted an increase in the number of people who board these vehicles in restricted areas as a result of illegal deals with drivers. He added that controls should be toughened on production centers for masks, in order to ensure that these are distributed on a rational basis.

Tatiana Viera, coordinator for the defense council, said that there are 27 centers for epidemiological isolation. And additional institutions have been designated to house health workers from other provinces who arrive to augment intensive care personnel. These sites include a hotel run by the Cuban Workers Union and the guest house of the Union of Young Communists.

Among other measures that have been taken are limits on the operating hours of restaurants and stores, which will close at 8 PM. In addition, state-owned establishments such as those operated by independent workers who provide 24-hour-a-day service will be open only during the day.

In another move, a staff member of the Havana Prosecutor’s Office will be assigned to each police unit, in order to take action against those who violate measures including required wearing of masks. or drinking alcoholic beverages on the street. Moreover, sales of rum will be limited to one bottle per customer, and beer will be sold only to customers buying take-out food.

Those who try to set up lines where goods are sold, as well as street merchants, will be fined. “People go out to buy in these markets, and have to make their purchases quickly,” provincial authorities said. They requested increased food production, and better control over sales centers for fruits and vegetables.

Translated by Peter Katel


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