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South America: The spread of COVID-19 must be analysed through class lines, raising concern for those working in the informal economy

“Coronavirus in South America: How it became a class issue”, 24th March 2020

Brazil got its first case of coronavirus just after carnival. The man, who had visited Italy, returned with symptoms and went straight to Albert Einstein hospital, a world-class institution in the southern hemisphere's biggest city, São Paulo…

The first case in Ecuador was somebody returning from Spain. In Uruguay, media reported last week that half of the country's coronavirus cases could be traced back to a single guest at a glamorous party who had just come back from Spain…

"The social class who is ill at the moment are the upper-middle and upper classes, and that's why we haven't yet seen a sustained transmission rate," says Dr Beatriz Perondi, who heads the disaster and emergency committee at São Paulo's Hospital das Clinicas…

"Once they start spreading the virus to the middle and lower classes, that's when we are going to have issues with quarantine. With lots of people living in the same room, that could cause huge transmission problems."

And while decent employers will continue to pay their staff regardless of whether they will work or not, not everyone has been decent…In a country where 40% of the workforce is estimated to work in the informal economy, millions of poor people are going to bear the brunt of coronavirus…