The Class Character of the Expansion of COVID-19

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The Class Character of the Expansion of COVID-19:
The Case of Peru’s Capital City Lima

Jan Lust

At the end of December 2019, the world was notified about the existence of a new coronavirus in the city of Wuhan in China. This virus, SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19), rapidly spread and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. In response, Peru was the first country in Latin America to implement a nation-wide lockdown and strict quarantine measures. These measures were implemented through a declaration of a state of emergency, with the military and the police charged with controlling the population.

This early response has not prevented... the expansion of COVID-19 in the country. Currently (24 February 2021), Peru is ranked nineteen on the world ranking of the number of individuals infected by the virus.

The expansion of COVID-19 in Peru during the total and semi-lockdowns and now in times of the almost completely re-opened economy appears to demonstrate the class character of the virus. Although the economic, social, and health effects of COVID-19 might be diminished through concentrated efforts by the state apparatuses, the most affected are the salaried and non-salaried working class, formal and informal situations, and self-employed workers.

We argue that the expansion of COVID-19 in Peru has a socioeconomic and class background. While it seems that the virus was brought into the country by travelers belonging to what might be called the accommodated social classes, it rapidly turned into a disease of the labouring classes. First of all, these classes did not have the option to stay at home during the lockdown as was mandated by law. Second, as the large majority of these social classes perform manual labour, they are not, in general, able to do this work at home and, hence, they are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Third, the conditions for the expansion of the virus might have been eliminated if the government had decided to actively intervene in the economy instead of providing late and uneven financial alleviation and repressing the population who have no way to search for a job, income, and nutrition other than by leaving their homes.

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