The Buenos Aires City government confirmed Thursday that 124 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus have been recorded in villas.
The cases are distributed among several shantytowns, though Villa 31 de Retiro and Villa 1-11-14 have been hit the hardest. The former has 57 confirmed cases, while the latter has 48.
Lower numbers have been reported in the capital's other shantytowns. Villa 15 has three cases, Villa 20 has two, Barrio Fatima has two, and Villa 21-24 has one. There has also been one recorded case in Barrio Mitre in Saavedra, though government sources indicated that as of Thursday there were 10 more cases pending. No details have been published on these 10 additional cases at the time of writing.
The characteristics of informal housing settlements – such as overcrowding, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of hygiene and sanitation – facilitate the spread of the virus among residents. In addition, many houses in Güemes, San Martín Ferroviario, Comunicaciones, and Cristo Obrero lack running water.
Epidemologists at the City Health Ministry are observing another 64 people from informal housing settlements who have come into close contact with individuals confirmed as having the virus.
The City’s Habitat and Human Development Ministry says that different methods are being deployed to mitigate the impact of the virus in the villas. These programmes include strengthening food security, urban hygiene and sanitary measures, and a plan for the elderly.
“The presence of the virus in vulnerable neighbourhoods is a reality. From the beginning of the pandemic we knew that this was going to happen, so we took all the corresponding measures to slow the social circulation of the virus,” Maria Migliore, head of the City's Social Ministry, told Perfil's Claudio Corsalini on Thursday.
With regard to food security, the City government says that the number of daily meal packages handed out increased by 30 percent in February. These rations went from feeding approximately 90,000 people to more than 105,000. The government also reported that food packages are being distributed at 561 points in the capital through community soup kitchens, early childcare centres, and community gardens. Of the 471 community dining halls in the City, 316 are in vulnerable neighbourhoods.
“The cleanliness of public spaces is guaranteed to reduce sources of infection.” Migliore added. Because of this, he said, cleaning operations were being carried out in housing complexes and neighbourhoods. Miglore also explained that, of the 34 sweeping and sanitation cooperatives that work in the Villas, three clean the streets, sidewalks and facades of houses with water and chlorine to disinfect common areas in neighbourhoods. In the case of Villa 31, the waste collection system has been streamlined and modified. These modifications include motorcycles that collect waste from neighbour's homes.
As for the elderly living in Villas, the Government plans to work with churches, neighbourhood leaders, and social organisations in order to protect their health.
“The City has two guidelines. For those who live alone, we ask that they not leave the house and we have formed a group of neighbourhood representatives who assist grandparents on a daily basis. For those who live with their families and want to comply with the quarantine but cannot do so because of infrastructure conditions, 28 centres have been set up so that they can carry out distancing safely,” said Migliore.
– TIMES/PERFIL, based on reporting by Claudio Corsalini