By Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía (14ymedio)
HAVANA TIMES — The Santa Bárbara Popular Council, one of the most commercial and busiest areas of the city of Santiago de Cuba, has been in quarantine since this Sunday due to the increase in the numbers of people infected by Covid-19. Some 4,123 inhabitants were isolated in a 23 block areas which contains 1,235 homes.
Among the closed areas is a large part of Victoriano Garzón Avenue, where there are many offices providing different services, as well as shops, butchers and markets. Among the closed stores is the Panamerican chain at 4th and Garzón Street, one of the few establishments that sells in pesos.
Among the measures imposed by local authorities, it was decided to close all services that generate lines, with the exception of the ration stores, where the “basic basket” can now only be bought by a family member.
The Government also emphasized that it would impose the “immediate” criminalization of complaints against international travelers who fail to comply with measures restricting movement in the city.
In addition, in Santa Bárbara, one of the neighborhoods where there are many houses rented to foreigners, this activity was shut down and in neighboring areas travelers from the United States, Haiti, Mexico, Suriname, United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic are limited to one month contracts.
The city of Santiago de Cuba has not had a break since October when commercial flights were restarted. With the arrival of international travelers, Covid spread throughout the province, even in municipalities that in the first months of the pandemic remained free of the Coronavirus.
Meanwhile, locally transmitted cases mark daily life. The authorities have insisted on blaming the “indiscipline of travelers and residents,” although they have also recognized, bit by bit, fissures in the health system. They have even imposed sanctions on healthcare workers, according to local media.
In addition to the tense health situation, which has caused the suspension of schools and the closure of childcare centers for more than two months, the desperation of the people of Santiago to find food is complicated by the severe shortages that are hitting the country.
During the end of the year and the first days of 2021, some residents expressed their discomfort at the deployment of the black berets, special troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and agents of the Ministry of the Interior, who guarded the huge lines that formed during the holidays to buy food.
Residents of the Altamira area informed 14ymedio that in the lines at the shops in that part of the city the presence of undercover agents of the political police is becoming common, and their role is to stop or detect rebellious comments, fights and public manifestations of dissent.
On the other hand, the important La Plaza shopping center, belonging to the Cimex Corporation, which for months has been one of the many establishments that sell in US dollars, is also closed due to positive cases of Covid, as confirmed by this newspaper.
The difficult health situation covers the entire country, which woke up this Monday with a record of daily infections, registering 316 new cases, of which 172 were contacts of confirmed patients, 127 arrived infected from abroad and 17 are without a specified source of contagion, according to the Ministry of Public Health.
Santiago de Cuba announced 22 new infections on Monday, almost 50% imported and more than half in the capital. With more than 400 active cases, the eastern province has registered the fourth most infections in recent hours, after Havana (76), Matanzas (66) and Villa Clara (31).