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World In Peru, poverty and loopholes in confinement make the coronavirus epidemic get carried away

12:50  23 may  2020
12:50  23 may  2020 Source:   pressfrom.com

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Une femme assiste aux funérailles d'un proche mort du Covid-19, au cimetière El Angel à Lima, le 21 mai 2020 © ERNESTO BENAVIDES A woman attends the funeral of a loved one who died in Covid-19, at the El Angel cemetery in Lima, May 21, 2020

Peru was the first country in Latin America to adopt restrictive measures to try to contain the Covid-19 epidemic. However, nine weeks of confinement later, the figures for contamination explode. What happened ?

Désinfection après un enterrement au cimetière El Angel à Lima, le 21 mai 2020 © ERNESTO BENAVIDES Disinfection after a funeral at the El Angel cemetery in Lima, May 21, 2020

The country of 32 million inhabitants closed its borders and decreed compulsory national confinement from March 16, when barely 86 cases were officially listed. Today, the number of infections is approaching 110,000, including 28,000 new in a week, and more than 3,100 deaths.

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Peru is now the second most affected country in Latin America after Brazil (210 million inhabitants) and the third in terms of death after Brazil and Mexico (130 million inhabitants).

Several factors seem to have favored the uncontrolled spread of the virus:

- Markets and banks

By decreeing containment, the government has maintained essential economic activities, including the sale of foodstuffs on the markets. They have become silent hotbeds of contamination until the government begins to take stock of the problem.

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Several markets have thus been closed. In the fruit market in the La Victoria district of Lima, 86% of traders tested positive for Covid-19.

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"It was an explosive chain of contagion," said Luis Benavente, director of the Vox Populi institute. "The state sent the military to the market two months after the containment began, but it was too late," he said.

Banks have also been a source of contagion. Peruvians gathered en masse in front of banking establishments to come and collect emergency aid vouchers distributed by the government.

Here too, the authorities have taken late measures with bank withdrawals which can now be made electronically.

- Fragility of the health system

Some 7,500 patients with Covid-19 are hospitalized in Peru. Due to the lack of protective equipment or the non-respect of health security protocols, the virus has spread among health personnel.

At least 635 doctors and 1,200 nurses contracted the disease, and 20 doctors and 12 paramedics died.

Health workers took to the streets to denounce the government's inability to provide them with the necessary protective equipment and drugs to cope with the disease. "The sick die in their chairs or in their wheelchairs," a nurse from a hospital in Lima told AFP.

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- Lots of informal

The Peruvian economy is one of the most dynamic in Latin America, but informal work accounts for 70% of activities. Thousands of people have defied containment orders to feed their families.

In the first weeks of the pandemic, more than 50,000 people were arrested by the police for violating the rules of containment.

The authorities then stopped publishing figures, but the large number of offenders led to heavy contamination of the police responsible for monitoring compliance with the containment. About fifty of them died from Covid-19.

- Drinking water and endemic poverty

While awareness campaigns have been launched by the authorities throughout the country to encourage people to wash their hands in order to prevent contamination, this effort has come up against a harsh reality: thousands of families do not have access to clean water.

In Lima, which has 10 million inhabitants, 1.2 million people do not have access to water and another three million benefit from it intermittently, recalls Mariella Sanchez, director of the NGO Aquafondo.

Peru has also experienced great socio-economic inequalities since colonial times. Poverty affects 20.5% of the population, according to the latest statistics from the World Bank.

Thousands of poor families have left the Andean highlands or the Amazon regions to pile up in shanty towns on the outskirts of the capital where the majority of the inhabitants survive thanks to precarious jobs.

Thus, in the Cantagallo district of Lima, where Indians of the Shipibo Conibo ethnic group live, 475 people out of a total of 656 tested positive for Covid-19.

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