Peru was the first Latin American countries to adopt restrictive measures to try to contain the outbreak of COVID-19. However, nine weeks of confinement later, the numbers of infections is exploding. What has happened in the past ?
The country of 32 million inhabitants has closed its borders and declared a containment national mandatory from march 16, so that only 86 cases were officially identified. Today, the number of infections is approaching 110 000, 28 000 new in a week, and over 3100 deaths.
Peru is now the second country in Latin America the most affected after Brazil (210 million inhabitants) and the third in terms of death, after Brazil and Mexico (130 million inhabitants).
Several factors seem to have favoured the uncontrolled spread of the virus :
– Markets and banks :
In implementing the containment, the government has maintained the essential economic activities, including the sale of foodstuffs on the markets. They have become homes quiet of contamination, until the government begins to take the measure of the problem.
Several markets have as well been closed. On the fruit market in the district of La Victoria in Lima, 86 percent of traders have been tested positive to the COVID-19.
“This has been a chain of contagion explosive,” points out Luis Benavente, director of the institute Vox Populi. “The government has sent the military on the markets two months after the start of the confinement, but it was too late,” he said.
Banks have also been a source of contagion. Peruvians flocked to the banks to collect the bills of emergency aid distributed by the government.
Here, too, the authorities have taken steps of late with bank withdrawals that can be made now by electronic means.
– Fragility of the health system :
Approximately 7500 patients with the COVID-19 are hospitalized in Peru. Due to the lack of protective equipment or non-compliance with the protocols of food safety, the virus has spread among health staff.
At least 635 doctors and 1200 nurses have contracted the disease, and 20 doctors and 12 paramedics are dead.
The health workers took to the streets to denounce the government’s failure to provide them with protective equipment and necessary medication to cope with the disease. “The patients die on their chair or in their wheelchair “, declared with the AFP a nurse at a hospital in Lima.
– A lot of informal :
The peruvian economy is one of Latin America’s most dynamic, but informal employment represents 70 % of the activities. Thousands of people have braved the levels of containment to be able to feed their family.
In the first weeks of the pandemic, more than 50 000 people have been arrested by the security forces for violating the rules of containment.
The authorities have then ceased to publish the figures, but the significant number of offenders have led to a strong contamination of the police officers in charge of monitoring compliance of the containment. Fifty of them have died of the COVID-19.
– Drinking water and endemic poverty :
While awareness campaigns have been launched by the authorities in the country to encourage people to wash hands to prevent contamination, this effort is met with a harsh reality : thousands of families do not have access to safe drinking water.
In Lima, which has 10 million inhabitants, 1.2 million people do not have access to water, and another three million in benefit intermittently, reminds Mariella Sanchez, director of the NGO Aquafondo.
Peru also has large socio-economic disparities since the colonial era. The poverty rate is 20.5% of the population, according to the latest statistics of the world Bank.
Thousands of poor families have left the high plateaus of the andean or amazonian regions and crowding in slums on the outskirts of the capital where the majority of the inhabitants survive through insecure jobs.
Thus, in the neighborhood of Cantagallo in Lima, where live the Indians of the ethnic group Shipibo Conibo, 475 persons out of a total of 656 were tested positive to the COVID-19.