Nutrition and Coronavirus in Cuba

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Line to get into a supermarket in Havana.  Will there still be chicken?  Photo: IPS Cuba

Cuban families face a number of challenges staying fed, including the choice to stay at home or go out on the street to try and purchase needed food items

Por IPS Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – “I didn’t want to go out on the street… but eggs arrived at the store and those are essential,” commented Amelia Martinez, 58, one of the many Cubans who alternate between the recommended social isolation and activities to guarantee food during the pandemic.

When they get home, they need to follow stricter norms in handling the food, norms that families are beginning to learn, together with the better known recommendations to wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face and maintain distance from other people to avoid the spread of the new Coronavirus.

Food Security and propagation of the virus

With 119 confirmed Covid-19 infections and three deaths as of March 27, the topic of nutrition concerns both the population and the Cuban authorities, who have recognized that the lines to buy food are one of the main causes of crowding.

The scarce availability of things to buy has worsened since the end of 2019, as the reinforced US blockade on external trade added to problems caused by the country’s economic limitations and insufficient local food production.

Among the measures adopted by the national authorities in the current situation are increased rationing and encouraging the elaboration of food products to go in the networks set up for getting food to the most vulnerable and low-income sectors.

In some territories, following international examples, priority for purchase of bread is given to the older adults, while in other places the police are charged with keeping order in the lines and having people maintain a safe distance.

Another of the alerts put out by the national authorities is avoiding a rise in food prices.  To do so, they’ve called on the population to denounce anyone trying to line their pockets from the dangerous pandemic.

Faced with an insufficient food supply, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has called on the agricultural sector and the food industry to rapidly increase their production, a process that is complicated by restrictions on the purchase of inputs and by fuel limitations.

Products to be rationed once again

Amid the Coronavirus epidemic, bath and washing soap, toothpaste and detergent are some of the articles that are once again to be rationed through the booklet that Cubans maintain, following years of being available on the open market.

Interior Trade Minister Betsy Garcia stated on the “Informational Round Table” television program on March 27 that the measure is being adopted to guarantee the equitable distribution of food and cleaning products, including sodium hypochlorite, a bleaching agent, be it as controlled or as regulated items.

She informed that in April, consumers would receive through the rationing booklet one additional pound of chicken at an unsubsidized price, and 10 ounces of peas, as well as tubers and vegetables.

To guarantee the production of the private sector, they’ll be able to acquire inputs such as flour and eggs.

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