What happened for Peru to serve 100 days confined without being able to stop infections?


A priest speaks during the funeral of the deceased by COVID-19 on May 25, 2020 at the El Ángel cemetery in Lima (Peru). EFE / Sergi Rugrand / Archive

Lima, June 23 (EFE) .- Peru, the first country in Latin America to decree the national and mandatory quarantine to stop the expansion of COVID-19, this Tuesday celebrates 100 days of confinement, installed as the sixth country in the world with the most confirmed cases, with more than 257,000 and more than 8,200 deaths.
The confinement began on March 16 when there were just 71 cases registered, making Peru one of the most cautious countries, with a reaction much earlier than that of others such as Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
However, the virus continued to spread at a faster rate than initial expectations, making both Peruvians and foreigners wonder why this situation.
Although the quarantine has served to prevent some 100,000 deaths and 900,000 infections, according to the calculations of the National Center for Epidemiology, the effectiveness of the isolation could have been greater had it not been for various circumstances that apparently detracted from this emergency measure.
1.- COVID-19 “DE YAPA” IN THE MARKETS
Markets, one of the few places allowed to go out under the strict initial conditions of confinement, quickly became major sources of contagion by concentrating huge crowds of people
After a month and a half of operation in the markets with almost no security measures, the government began to carry out rapid tests in these centers and the alarm went off: some, such as the Lima Fruit Market, had 80% of their vendors infected.
“You are going to buy and take the ‘yapa’ COVID-19 (courtesy),” warned the President of Peru, Martín Vizcarra.
The isolation measures favored the crowds in markets, which saw their opening hours limited by curfews. Nor did the controversial norm of segregating the street exit of men and women on alternate days help, which led to massive concentrations on days reserved for women.
2.- CONTAGE ON WHEELS
The means of transportation also suffered crowds, especially at peak times, despite the fact that in the first days, 90% of the almost 2 million cars that move through Lima daily were stopped.
With 10 million residents and just one subway line, the few formal city bus lines also became mobile hot spots for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to spread.
However, tests were not started on these transport networks until the end of May, when it was revealed that between 25% and 43% of the passengers of the Lima Metro tested positive for these analyzes, while in the Metropolitano, a network of buses with a segregated lane, the positive rate was between 13% and 15% of users.
Transportation also helped the virus, initially concentrated in the middle-class neighborhoods, spread in the direction of the most humble sectors, where once it was installed it spread with greater virulence.
3.- AID WITH CONTRARY EFFECT
Aware that practically 70% of the economically active population works informally and lives on what they earn on a day-to-day basis, the Government launched a strong subsidy and bond program for the poorest households from the beginning of the quarantine.
However, these state aids designed so that the most disadvantaged remained in their homes, ended up generating more contagions, as they caused large crowds in bank offices to collect them, since many of these families do not have bank accounts and had to receive the money in cash.
The coronavirus was also spread during the delivery of baskets of basic foods that was in charge of the mayors, which affected vulnerable populations such as indigenous communities.
This is the case of Pucacuro, an Achuar ethnic community where a municipal delegation arrived with several infected officials, including the mayor, who did not respect any security measure in his eagerness to deliver food.
4.- MIGRATION TO THE FIELD
As the confinement lengthened from fortnight to fortnight, many families were left without resources or accommodation and began to migrate massively from Lima to their regions of origin, despite the prohibition of inter-provincial transportation.
That did not intimidate thousands of people, who faced the possibility of starvation in Lima, took to the roads ready to travel hundreds of kilometers on foot to return to their places of origin and to the support of their families.
Despite the fact that the national Executive and regional governments tried to control these large groups with rapid tests and organized humanitarian transfers by bus and plane, it did not prevent COVID-19 in some cases from reaching remote areas where, until then, it had not been present.
The authorities provided establishments so that these travelers could comply with a mandatory 14-day quarantine to precisely avoid possible infections, but in many cases this isolation was not met and put the entire prevention plan at risk.
5.- MASS INFORMALITY
Starting in May, the economic situation became unsustainable for the majority of Peruvians who work in informality, since social aid only reached a small part, who were forced to take to the streets to try to earn some money, massively breaking the quarantine.
Tacitly, the confinement was lifted in areas of Lima, whose streets were flooded with street vendors, many of them workers in the hundreds of formal commercial galleries that the government had ordered closed.
Precisely, given this evidence of non-compliance with the restrictions, the government has been forced to authorize the opening of formal businesses this week to prevent them from continuing on the streets.
Beyond this, almost from the very beginning of the quarantine, the population massively disobeyed, for social or cultural reasons, the orders of confinement in some regions such as the northern Piura and the Amazon Loreto, which later became the most struck by the pandemic.
Fernando Gimeno

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