Things That Matter

Desperate For Work, Immigrant Workers Are Collecting The Bodies Of Covid-19 Victims

Countries across Latin America are struggling to combat the Coronavirus pandemic. In fact, Latin America is now considered the epicenter of the global outbreak, as countries in the region are ravaged by the virus. From Brazil to Mexico, government responses have varied widely and adherence to social distancing guidelines has been difficult for communities with little in the way of a financial safety net.

Meanwhile, Latin America is still experiencing a refugee crisis as Venezuelans flee their country for better opportunities in Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and even Mexico. This has led to many migrants being forced to take less than ideal jobs as ordinary work opportunity have dried up as the economies have been hit hard by the pandemic.

In Peru, migrants are collecting bodies of those who have died from Covid-19 in order to make a living.

Despite Peru’s early action to contain the pandemic, the coronavirus has spread like wildfire through the country. More than 390,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus so far. Meanwhile, the country is a destination for Venezuelan refugees, with at least 870,000 who have ended up in Peru, working low-wage jobs to make ends meet or to send funds home to impoverished loved ones.

One of the jobs these migrants are working is to collect the bodies of those who have died from Covid-19. It’s a grim job but they earn $500 a month for their efforts, nearly double the minimum wage in Peru. They work up to 19 hours a day, seven days a week.

Most of the bodies they collect are from poor neighborhoods, from homes where people can’t afford to hire a funeral director to handle the burial. There have been more than 13,000 deaths from Covid-19, and the public health system is collapsing under the weight of the grim toll. What’s left for the poor is a death with little dignity.

At the city’s El Angel Cemetery crematorium, many of the staff handling bodies also are Venezuelans.

“The Peruvians don’t do it. It’s tough,” said Orlando Arteaga, who works seven days a week, earning the money he needs to support three children in Venezuela and a 2-year-old daughter in Lima. He told CNN he never imagined he would see so much death, but that “somebody has to do it — and we need work.”

Peru has been hit hard by the outbreak and its death toll continues to rise.

As of July 28, Peru has seen more than 390,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and there have been 18,418 deaths related to the virus. These numbers have skyrocketed in recent weeks. In fact, at the beginning of the crisis, Peru appeared as a model for other countries in the region.

Peru was praised early on in the pandemic for its swift and decisive response, buffered by an enviable fiscal cushion. But four months later, the government’s disjointed execution of its strategy has made the country a cautionary tale for how not to fight Covid-19. Early on, Peru’s government imposed a strict lockdown that is only now being eased. A few days later, a fiscal package of more than 10% of GDP was announced, including cash transfers to the poorest third of the population, credit support for businesses and, most importantly, expanded funding to the health sector.

And yet, Peru’s record on dealing with the pandemic has not only been disappointing – it is among the worst in the world.

Venezuelan refugees have been pouring out of the country looking for better opportunities and ways to support their families.

Although Venezuela hasn’t been hit hard by the Coronavirus, compared to other countries – although this is beginning to change. However, it’s experiencing an economic catastrophe that has left millions in extreme poverty.

The country has recorded almost 16,000 cases of Covid-19 and less than 150 deaths. But the country is being ravaged by fuel and electricity shortages, a near worthless currency, and political strife that has rendered much of the government useless.

Countries in the region are being dramatically affected by the fallout. Neighboring Colombia, for instance, has absorbed some 1.6 million Venezuelan refugees to date in a migration wave that is severely straining government resources and adversely impacting the national economy. Peru has experienced much the same dynamic, as — to a lesser extent — have countries like Ecuador, Brazil and Chile. That’s because eight out of ten Venezuelan refugees have remained in Latin America and the Caribbean, so local governments have been forced to bear the brunt of Venezuela’s unfolding collapse.

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Met Gala 2021 Is Happening And Amanda Gorman Is Set To Host The America-Themed Fashion Event

Entertainment

Met Gala 2021 Is Happening And Amanda Gorman Is Set To Host The America-Themed Fashion Event

Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s 2021 and the Met Gala is back this year – after being canceled in 2020 thanks to a pandemic – with superstar poet Amanda Gorman being eyed to host the fashion event of the year. Given the 23-year-old’s show-stopping performance at the inauguration, the theme fittingly will be a celebration of America and American designers.

The Met Gala will return in 2021 with a very special guest as host.

Vogue’s “Oscars of Fashion” famously takes place on the first Monday of May. However, this year it’s been pushed back to September 13, in hopes that life will have returned to something closer to normal by then.

Epic poet Amanda Gorman is reportedly in talks to co-host the event alongside Tom Ford, who is the academy’s president. The breakout star of President Biden’s inauguration, Gorman is on the cover of the magazine’s May issue and the subject of a relentlessly glowing profile inside.

The black-tie gala, which raises funds for Met’s Costume Institute, is normally fashion’s biggest night and sees guests from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B to Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and even Maluma.

The event was canceled in 2020 thanks to a global pandemic.

The world’s most glamorous party was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, which was (and still is) raging the planet at the time. There was a virtual event in place of the 2020 event, with celebs like Julia Roberts, Priyanka Chopra and Amanda Seyfried showing off their looks from home and stars like Mindy Kaling and Adam Rippon taking part in the #MetGalaChallenge, recreating looks from past years.

This year’s event will draw inspiration from all things USA.

The theme of this year’s Met Gala has not been announced, but Page Six says the night will be devoted to honoring America and American designers, following the 18-month-long COVID crisis in this country.

Recent past themes for the event have included “Camp: Notes on Fashion” (2019), “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” (2018), and “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between (2017). And don’t forget 2016, when Zayn Malik wore robot-arms to Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.

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Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Things That Matter

Brazil Just Passed a Bill That Will Allow Rich Corporations to ‘Skip the Line’ for COVID-19 Vaccines

Photo via Getty Images

Currently, Brazil is one of the world’s epicenters of the coronavirus. In March 2021, Brazil saw 66,573 COVID-19-related deaths. That means 1 in every 3 COVID-related deaths worldwide are occuring in Brazil.

And it doesn’t appear that the numbers will be slowing down anytime soon. While the United States is making strides in their COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Brazil is lagging far behind. And things are about to get a lot more complicated.

On Tuesday, Brazil passed a bill that would allow corporations to buy up as many vaccines as they can get their hands on, and privately distribute them to their employees first.

Elected officials in Brazil are arguing that the country has become so desperate to vaccinate its citizens, that it doesn’t matter who gets the vaccines first at this point.

The country, once renowned for having one of the most robust and efficient public vaccine-distribution programs in the world, has failed to make strides towards getting their citizens vaccinated.

“We are at war,” said the leader of the chamber, Arthur Lira. “And in war, anything goes to save lives.” We don’t know about you, but usually when it comes to war, we’ve heard that soldiers prioritize the health and safety of young, the weak, and the elderly before their own? We digress…

Brazil’s plan to privatize the vaccine rollout has brought up moral and ethical questions.

From the beginning, the World Health Organization has asked countries to first prioritize essential health workers and then high-risk populations when distributing the vaccine.

Anything other than that would promote a pay-to-play schemes in which the rich could protect their lives before poor people could. And poor people are more likely to die from COVID-19 in the first place.

As Alison Buttenheim, behavioral scientist and expert on the equitable allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine said, vaccine distribution should not “exacerbate disparities and inequities in health care,” but instead address them. Brazil’s vaccine rollout plan would fail to do any of the above.

If countries begin to allow the rich to prioritize their own interests during the vaccine rollout, the consequences could be disastrous.

In a time when the world is stoked by fear and uncertainty, the worst thing that can happen is for rich companies to exacerbate inequalities by effectively choosing who lives or dies.

As the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization said at the beginning of the global vaccine rollout: “any distribution of vaccines should advance human well-being and honor global equity, national equity, reciprocity, and legitimacy.”

Poor Brazilians should not be left to fend for themselves against COVID-19 simply because they are poor.

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