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World In hard-hit Spain, the poor suffer even more from the pandemic

19:30  20 september  2020
19:30  20 september  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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Less well-off communities like El Raval are being hit harder , with the gap between poorer and richer areas at the heart of a tense debate in Spain over how to curb the increase in cases, as some cities envisage targeted lockdowns that would focus on the more affected - and therefore often poorer

A man is pictured next to a field hospital before he makes a PCR test in the Raval district, after Catalonia's regional authorities announced restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona, Spain September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce. “If I tell my boss that I

By Joan Faus

a man and a woman walking down a street: Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona © Reuters/NACHO DOCE Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Mohamed Chirif, a 45-year-old Algerian living in Barcelona, is afraid he might lose his job as a plumber if the coronavirus test he took this week turns out to be positive.

"If I tell my boss that I have to stay home for 14 days, what do you think he will do? I am sure he would hire another person," he said, stressing that if he was infected, he would say so.

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a person standing in front of a brick building: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona © Reuters/NACHO DOCE The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona

"And where would I self-isolate? In the bathroom?," he said during a voluntarily screening programme in his neighbourhood El Raval, one of Barcelona's most multicultural and poorest areas, whose infection rate is almost double the city's average. Chirif lives with his wife and two children in a one-bedroom apartment.

a close up of a cage: Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona © Reuters/NACHO DOCE Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona

His words illustrate one of the challenges Spain faces trying to curb the spread of the virus. It has the highest number of cases in Western Europe, with more than 610,000, while more than 30,000 have died.

Less well-off communities like El Raval are being hit harder, with the gap between poorer and richer areas at the heart of a tense debate in Spain over how to curb the increase in cases, as some cities envisage targeted lockdowns that would focus on the more affected - and therefore often poorer - areas.

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The Spanish weather agency, Aemet, said tropical nights— when temperatures do not fall below 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) — were also frequent in many parts of Spain in July. In hard - hit Spain , the poor suffer even more from the pandemic .

A union representative in Spain said even though he understood the industry's crisis, workers ought not be the only parameter to be adjust to improve the company's In hard - hit Spain , the poor suffer even more from the pandemic . Reuters. Top Spain court mulls Catalan president's disqualification.

a group of people posing for the camera: Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Barcelona © Reuters/NACHO DOCE Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Barcelona

At the peak of the pandemic, Barcelona's district with the lowest income had 2.5 times more cases than the richest while across the Catalonia region the mortality rate was five times higher among the poorest, two studies showed.

a group of people wearing costumes: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona © Reuters/NACHO DOCE The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Barcelona

In Madrid, the infection rate in a northern district is almost six times lower than in a southern district with a lower average income and a higher migrant population.

The risk of losing one's job was on the mind of many in the neighbourhood as tests were being carried out in El Raval.

Laia, a 23-year-old waiting in line to get tested, said some people may not come for fear of getting a positive test. "You have your plans and if they tell you you're positive and have to stay home, some may not be willing to do it," she said.

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Demonstrators waving Spanish flags filled the central square outside the seat of the regional government and Barcelona city hall. One man burnt the Catalan flag while a group tried to tear down a banner reading ‘ More democracy’ hanging from the front of the town hall to cheers from the crowd.

Spain 's slump, which has led to a spike in unemployment and harsh austerity cuts, has proven to be the tipping point for many Catalans who used to be against or ambivalent about seeking their own state. In hard - hit Spain , the poor suffer even more from the pandemic .

Pedro Gullon, a Spanish Epidemiology Society board member, said the inequality gap, fuelled by housing and labour factors, was not the only reason behind Spain's high infection rate, but the increase in cases had made those disparities more visible.

Seeking not to stigmatize El Raval and encourage residents to get tested, Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau said this week people who could not self-isolate at home could stay at hotels and those at home could receive food and medical visits.

(Reporting by Joan Faus and Nacho Doce, Editing by Ingrid Melander and Alexandra Hudson)


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