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ARGENTINA | 08-05-2020 14:55

City government scrambles to tackle Covid-19 in villas

City government takes steps to mitigate impact of Covid-19 pandemic in capital's most vulnerable neighbourhoods.

The Buenos Aires City Government took steps this week to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the capital’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods, as fears of a surge in infections in villas and shantytowns grew.

Officials said teams had been carrying out door-to-door check-ins with residents, with those showing symptoms of the virus being transported to hospital. 

Last Tuesday, the city began actively looking for cases of Covid-19 in the villas, So far 249 cases have been confirmed in different barrios, with 151 in Villa 31 and Villa 1-11-14. There have been six deaths from the virus to date in vulnerable neighbourhoods, and 22 patients have been discharged from hospitals.

City Health Minister Fernán Quiros said at a press conference on May 5 that the virus’ fatality rate in vulnerable neighbourhoods is 2.4 percent. On May 4 alone, 26 new cases of the virus were confirmed in shantytowns.

Officials said a plan had been put into action to identify cases and halt the spread of the virus.

Quiros added: "The strategy that works best is to quickly diagnose cases and go door-to-door to speak to neighbours and communicate the symptoms so that they can be prepared."

The minister added that an estimated 150 healthcare professionals are working in the villas to deliver medicine and food to those in need, though he admitted, “it is never enough because the need is so large.”

With regard to the 1,766 confirmed cases in the City, Quiros detailed that 1,365 live in Buenos Aires City and 401 are not residents. 516 people have been discharged, 100 have died, and there are 6,160 suspected cases under observation.

The national Health Ministry said there have been 262 COVID related deaths in the country, with an average age of 75 years, and a fatality rate of 5.8 per million. Health Strategist Alejandro Costa added that there are 4,887 positive cases in the country and the fatality of the virus is 5.3 percent.

Getting water to vulnerable communities

Clean and running water is essential in preventing the spread of the virus, and officials are seeking to improve access in vulnerable communities experiencing upticks in cases of Covid-19.

On Tuesday, President of the AySA water company Malena Galmarini met with the public works team of the City government to discuss plans to deliver drinking water to neighbourhoods without it. Both parties agreed that the City would begin work in Villa 31 the following day.

City Social and Urban Integration Secretary Diego Fernández said officials had been working with Galmarini and that workers would “make the pending connections between the main pipes of the water network and the internal pipes of the distribution network” to “improve water pressure and the entire system.”

Galmarini said that the project would not come to fruition overnight, saying it would take 15 or 20 days to complete work that was ongoing before the Covid-19 Crisis.

“We are going to guarantee that people continue to have water through tank trucks, sachets, and we are going to see if we can carry jerry cans and collaborate so that people have water in their houses. However, the structural changes we are making is what must be done to give them full access to their rights,” the AySA official said.

“It is important that we understand that for the United Nations, water is a human right. The clearest conclusion drawn is that tomorrow no one is going to be short of water. The provision is going to be made and the works that were stopped before will begin at different stages. The important thing is that nobody lacks water,” said Galmarini.

 

– TIMES/PERFIL, with reporting by Florencia Ballarino.

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