The direct impact of the virus will be felt most acutely by the poorest sectors of the population. They will also feel the most immediate effects of its economic impact. What we propose to do over the next few weeks is to provide readers with a glimpse of how life is in various underprivileged parts of the country.
We start our coverage in the northern cone (cono norte) of Lima, where Father Ed O’Connell, a Columban priest working there (and a former president of the PSG), has been in contact with people living in outlying urban areas. He warns that it is impossible to give any sort of overall view of what is going on, just a few impressions. He highlights the problems ordinary people have even with the lockdown less than two weeks old.
From El Volante, a small area of the popular township of El Ermitaño in the district of Independencia: The people go about their lives the best they can, trying to keep to the lockdown. It is a densely populated area where, up in the higher parts of the area, the younger people are more out and about than the older people, ignoring the lockdown when out of sight of the police and army. But this is just one place.
Many of the poorer people in the informal sector, often women ambulantes, are receiving the government payment of s/380, which helps them get by.
From Cueva, a popular township, again in Independencia, the people are keeping the lockdown. People without regular income survive by living off their small savings, or through help from the extended family or friends. Not all are on the list for the government bono, and so are having very difficult times.
From Tahuantinsuyo, a neighbourhood also in the district of Independencia. Those with regular jobs have their savings but those who are street side sellers of food try to carry on, where possible, using the street corners higher up in the township, away from the purview of the police. They live off their small savings or make a little in their daily sales to cover their costs and maybe a little more to spend on essentials.
From San Benito, a poor township in Lomas de Carabayllo, in the district of Carabayllo, some go to work as best they can with limited transport. Most are at home with the children and trying to keep them occupied. There is a sense of solidarity among them, sharing what they have. The vaso de leche (milk distribution scheme) and the comedores (communal dining facilities) are functioning here, with support from the local municipality. This is a great help. But there is apprehension and concern as to how to survive if this lockdown goes on and the virus spreads.
A number of the poorer people are on the list for the bono and have to travel to Puente Piedra, some 5 kilometers by bus, to access the cash payment.
From Puente Camote, in the district of San Martín de Porres, the people go to the shops or market, but just one member of the family. Because it is a densely populated area, this means quite a lot of people are milling together. Leaving the township and going to a larger supermarket, in Las Palmeras, a lower middle-class area of Los Olivos district, it is noticeable that there are less people on the street. Still, many are out doing the shopping and buying medicines then returning home.
A lot of people are working from home, teachers and workers in NGOs, preparing materials and coordinating other activities.