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Los Sitios: No Man's Land in the Havana of Coronavirus

"The people's disobedience is a direct result of the scant police presence in the neighborhood," say area residents.

La Habana
Calle Manrique, in Los Sitios, Havana.
Calle Manrique, in Los Sitios, Havana. DDC

In the heart of Los Sitios, no one seems to care about the spread of the pandemic. Not even in the face of the outbreak of infections that overwhelmed Defense Council authorities in Central Havana last week, one of the most densely populated municipalities in the Cuban capital.

In just one block, on Manrique between Sitios and Maloja, medical authorities confirmed three cases, while the rumor among residents is that there are more than a dozen suspected. Social insubordination runs amok anyway, in a neighborhood that seems to be a kind of "no man's land" in the midst of social isolation in Cuba.

"The people's disobedience is a direct result of the scant police presence in the neighborhood," said Cari, pointing out the swarms of young people who "at all hours" throng at the corners and get in lines to buy soft drinks, regulated products at the bodegas, or for whatever the street vendors have.

"The few police or military that come around are not proportional to the neighborhood's high level of risk. There are more than enough police and military personnel in this country, so it is inexplicable how, with the increase in police touted so much on television and in the press, their presence is practically nil in this neighborhood," added Cari.

The capital's government decided to isolate several areas of Los Sitios, where there is the highest risk of Covid-19 infection in the entire city, as it has an incidence rate of 38.94 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Provincial Defense Council (CDP) noted that this is the only municipality in the country with three zones presenting elevated numbers of Covid-19 cases.

Cari believes that on Monday they are going to close her block "because the three people infected live in one building" where another 20 people reside.

In this "popular council" area with more than 32,500 inhabitants, police and military patrols cover the avenue of Reina, Monte and Belascoain, but are practically absent within the neighborhood, where failures to comply with basic isolation measures are the order of the day: people with no masks, wandering around unnecessarily, and huddled on corners and at entrances to rooming houses.

The mother of a two-year old girl, Arletis, questioned the medical investigations' rigor and the monitoring of residents.

"Since the quarantine was decreed, no one has visited my house for any kind of probe. This is supposed to be done regularly, home by home, person by person, and not by asking a neighbor or a family member, " complained Arletis, who also agreed that social insubordination would be the main catalyst for the expansion of the coronavirus in Los Sitios.

"There isn't even a record of who was given drops, how often they are given, and who should not take them," Arletis said, referring to a homeopathic product, with no proven efficacy that, despite criticism from experts, the government distributes.

Prevengho VIR, according to the Cuban Health authorities, is a "preventive homeopathic medicine [and is applied] as a prophylactic measure to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus causing Covid-19". Experts argue that these types of products are only useless placebos in the face of a pandemic like the current one.

After learning the official data on the neighborhood, some residents of Los Sitios criticized the government for the delay in isolating it.

Others have condemned the presence of at least two patrolmen "who come to visit their girlfriends or relatives" and "are the first to violate the rules established."

"If you see a police officer without a mask, chatting with some young girls instead of enforcing order, what moral authority does he have to later reprimand those on a corner breaking quarantine rules?" asked Nereida, who stated that the inhabitants have complained to their Popular Power delegate "for it to transmit their concerns to the government."

"It seems that the delegates do not work during a pandemic. Around here, in the heart of Los Sitios, it's all the same. Or is there also a shortage of police in Havana?" asked Nereida.

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