The independent outlet Cubanet published a video Tuesday of a long line in Havana, Cuba, in which distressed citizens complained of waiting outside in close quarters for hours for their government-allotted food rations, exposing themselves to potential carriers of the Chinese coronavirus.
The Cuban communist government claimed to have confirmed 57 cases of Chinese coronavirus on the island as of Wednesday. It identified another 1,479 people hospitalized with symptoms that could indicate a coronavirus infection. The Castro regime claims that Italian tourists brought the virus to the island nation, despite the consistent traffic of people between Cuba and its fellow communist nation China, where the virus originated.
Cuba initially announced it would launch a tourism initiative to attract people whose vacations had been canceled by much of the rest of the world instituting quarantines and lockdowns to combat the highly contagious disease. It also refused to shut down schools; due to severe water and soap shortages in the country, schools requested that parents send each child to their classrooms with a small amount of soap – that parents complained they could not afford or find in any stores.
The Castro regime has since yielded to popular demand to shut down schools, cut traffic from abroad, and shut down bars, night clubs, and other businesses that attract crowds. Other than these measures, however, it has done little to change the daily realities of the average Cuban that make each highly vulnerable to a viral infection.
Paramount among these are the perennial ration lines, where Cubans can spend most of a day waiting for chicken drumsticks, stale bread, or a small allotment of laundry detergent. As the footage published by Cubanet shows, the ration lines do not conform to public health experts’ social distancing guidelines, which suggest people maintain a six-foot distance between each other to keep from spreading the airborne virus.
Many on the lines appear to be wearing homemade masks, which the communist government has encouraged without providing any access to medical masks that can actually block pathogens. Others appear to have made makeshift masks for their children.
“We have been out here fighting over a little bit of chicken for hours,” one person on the line protests.
Another person, a woman, complains about the use of homemade masks.
“Knock it off with the craziness with the face mask, that stuff is microscopic, that’s a lie that the face mask blocks it, get away from me,” the exasperated woman says.
A man attempts to explain to the crowd that the person in charge of chicken distribution is using a “new method” to help with social distancing: rather than let individual pick up their bag of chicken at the front of the line, they will be handed a bag chosen by the government worker.
“They are just going to give packs of chicken to people because, before, people chose their own chicken and that takes too long,” the man says, noting that the line has not stretched around the block.
Someone apparently in charge or affiliated with the government in some way walks over to the person with the camera and requests that those around try to make a space of one meter between them, or about half the recommended distance by public health experts.
Reports in other outlets this week have indicated that growing concern over a potential shutdown of critical distribution centers has created agitated crowds at ration centers. The lines for the little soap available and items like dish and laundry detergent have been especially tense this week.
In addition to the usual product shortages, people in western Cuba, particularly the greater Havana area, are facing a water shortage. The Castro regime revealed this week that it believes nearly half a million people in and around Havana have no access to water, making it impossible for them to wash their hands. Havana officials claim insufficient rain is to blame for the shortages.
The Castro regime also provides barely any access to basic medications, including antibiotics and drugs used to treat cold symptoms, which many colds have in common with the Chinese coronavirus. In July, medical professionals warned that upwards of 40 medications common in global pharmacies are either unavailable or rare to find throughout the island. Cubans suffering fevers and other symptoms that may indicate a coronavirus infection told Radio Martí this week that they have had to resort to the black market to find drugs their doctors prescribed them.
“There are no medicines to lower fevers or to calm pain,” Lázaro Yuri Valle, whose wife, Eralidis Frómeta, was prescribed azithromycin for fever and body aches, told Radio Martí. “People have no food, no personal goods, and the little that [the government] brings out makes people crowd up in stores, and that is what spreads the disease. There is no way of preventing the propagation of this virus.”
Frómeta had spent hours in a line to buy soap before running a fever. The government has not identified her as a coronavirus carrier. The couple could not find azithromycin, a common antibiotic, in any legal pharmacy and resorted to the black market.
The Castro regime has not acknowledged the Chinese origin of the virus. The Communist Party newspaper Granma published an article suggesting that the virus is an American-made biological weapon.