Neighbors of La Paz change shopping habits to get food under quarantine

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In the middle of the coronavirus quarantine in Bolivia, the residents of Mallasilla, a neighborhood in the south of La Paz, modified their shopping habits to get fresh food at good prices, dealing directly with producers.

Two trucks from the field and loaded with vegetables, tubers, and fruits parked on Friday in a street in Mallasilla, where long lines of neighbors formed to buy.

Some neighbors wore gloves and masks for safety, but not all. The sale was slow and payment was made in cash from hand to hand.

“We are being able to access food through trucks that are arriving from the same producers,” Sergio, an NGO employee, told AFP with satisfaction.

Although the trucks offered “limited variety,” enough was provided to supply a family for “a week,” he added.

The Bolivian government tightened the national quarantine on Thursday to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected 61 people in the country, with no deaths.

In the midst of the quarantine, the entire food distribution chain has been affected. Supermarkets and other businesses are open for half a day, but it is difficult to go shopping.

In addition, some foods considered good to fight flu or lung infections have risen in price or disappeared.

Ginger, lemons or oranges are already inexistent in La Paz or are very expensive. Eucalyptus leaves, which are attributed medicinal and disinfectant purposes, are also not available.

Therefore, the system implemented in Mallasilla has been useful, according to the president of the neighborhood council, Carmen Melgar.

“We have managed so that they are the producers who come directly from the field, from their farms, to sell to consumers, to the neighbors, thus avoiding the price premium,” Melgar told AFP.

Producers “don’t have a lot of variety, because they bring certain products, but the prices are very good and very accessible, so it helps us the same,” he added.

Something similar expressed in the place the municipal inspector Henry Germán Lismán: “We are controlling the price so that they sell from the producer to the consumer.”

All activities have been affected in Bolivia by the pandemic. On Thursday the transitional government of Jeanine Áñez ordered a tightening of the quarantine and the borders and airspace are closed.

The movement of people is also limited. People can only go out once a week until noon, for the sole purpose of stocking up on essential products.

Military and police guard the main streets of Bolivian cities to enforce the measure. Many people have been detained for violating the quarantine, but have since been released.

The leader of the Mallasilla residents wants to get permission to extend the days of sale of the trucks coming from the field. “The sale will be managed from Monday to Friday, as many days as possible,” he said.

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