14ymedio, Havana, March 25, 2020 — The most effective and accessible enemy of the virus, water, isn’t so easy to obtain in Cuba, troubled by drought and the deficient management of a supply more necessary than ever against COVID-19. In Havana, 468,721 of its 2.2 million inhabitants suffer water shortages, according to authorities.
The capital has 111 supply sources affected, 89 partially and another 22 totally, and only one of the five basins that supply them is in good shape, as Antonio Rodríguez, director of the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH), explained this Tuesday on the Roundtable TV program. The deficit rises to 2,447 liters of water per second so far this March with 58,500 people being supplied by cistern trucks.
The shortage of water for lack of rain affects 469,000 people in the western area of the Island, the majority in Havana; some 23,000 in the central area, and some 21,000 in the east.
According to Rodríguez, among the most affected municipalities in the capital are Arroyo Naranjo, Central Havana, Old Havana, La Lisa, and Boyeros, although he warned that there are also problems in the others. The official pointed out that complaints and inquiries about service have increased and it has been necessary to increase the telephone capacity to deal with them.
“We have the advantage of the fact that we continue working on the interconnection of systems within the capital, to better distribute water,” he said. The works in various areas are accelerating to improve the situation, said Rodríguez, and the drilling of refill and supply wells is being worked on.
Additionally, two small desalinization plants have been installed and other wells will be activated as easy access points. In the capital, the director announced, theoretically there is an average of 648 liters per inhabitant, but the problem of pipe and network leaks (up to 2,000) prevent that quantity from reaching its destination and although 78% of the pipes have been renovated, only 36% of the networks are working properly.
Rodríguez also said that on Monday water arrived in water trucks to 31,909 people in Havana and that measures are being taken to adjust the supply and restrict the sources of shortages to the large consumers, in addition to reinforcing state inspection.
In the midst of all this, the weather forecasts are not optimistic and it will continue raining little at least until April, for which reason the official asked, as usual, for a rational use of water.
José Angel Portal Miranda, Minister of Public Health, also appeared on the program, where he took stock of the situation in Cuba, not without first highlighting that the Coronavirus is affecting 168 countries and that the most afflicted currently, according to the speed at which is spreading, are Italy, the United States, Spain, and Germany.
Cuba has had until now 48 confirmed cases, 29 Cubans and 19 foreigners. All the cases are considered to be imported, since the contagions are not considered to be local until they are transmitted between two people who have not left the country. Three of the cases are serious, there is one discharged and one deceased, while the rest remain stable.
Additionally, 1,229 people remain under observation, 1,055 Cubans and 174 foreigners, “admitted in isolation centers and hospitals planned with this in mind,” specified the Minister of Health.
“We have moved forward to the prevention phases, with measures like the partial closing of borders, because the majority of cases have been linked or were coming from abroad,” argued the Minister, despite the fact that the only control carried out until now was at ports and airports, through which, precisely, the coronavirus has entered.
The Minister of Health insisted that vigilance measures be maintained, specifically among the elderly and other vulnerable groups, and reminded that every province has facilities designated for measures of isolation, hospitalization, and control.
Portal Miranda reviewed other measures, like those taken in the reorganization of health services, with treatments been postponed with the exception of emergencies, and the holding of routine visits (aimed, thus, at reducing the number of patients) and the maternal and infant program.
“We reiterate the call for social distancing and for everyone to stay informed by official media, because the key is in prevention. Nobody can substitute what is necessary to do for their own protection. The success of everybody is in prevention,” stated Portal Miranda.
Reynaldo García Zapata, governor of Havana, asked the population to comply with the measures announced “by the highest leadership of the country.”
The official insisted on the role of the popular councils to guarantee vigilance and to respond to whoever needs help to comply with isolation. He also explained that 3,875 tourists remain isolated in hotels and 5,620 who remain in rented houses will be transferred.
García Zapata said that 770 points of sale have been set up for takeout food, and they are working on having all places able to provide that service, do so. Points of sale of bleach have also been raised to 123, one in every popular council.
Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.