The original COVID-19 quarantine in Peru started on March 16, 2020. After about three months, restrictions began to ease and life returned to a more normal, though fully masked, version. We never went back to school, and all teaching/learning has been done online since then. A few weeks ago, the government announced that all classes will stay virtual through April 15 (of course that can be extended).
Yesterday, the government announced that with increasing numbers of COVID cases and over-full hospitals, the full quarantine is returning to Lima and other parts of Peru from January 31 to February 14, 2021 (we have a few days to get ready). Casinos, gyms, theaters, and restaurants will be closed to the public. (I mention casinos first because they are first on the government graphic–interesting first choice.) Restaurants can offer take-out. Malls and stores will be closed along with churches and social clubs. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and local markets will stay open at 40% of capacity. People will be allowed to go for a walk or run for one hour daily; no personal cars will be allowed unless you receive a special permission.
So, here we go again. If we get it right, the full quarantine will be lifted in two weeks. If we don’t get it right, well, who knows. It’s up to us. As a community, how will we do? It’s up to us, together.
The headline in La República today says we will not go back into a quarantine. The president of Peru pointed out that the citizens understand the need to take precautions, such as using a face mask and maintaining your distance, so additional time in quarantine is not warranted. The newspaper also points out that the number of infections is rising again and that the hospitals are filling up, some of them are full.
I hope the president is correct–both about the citizens taking precautions and not needing to return to quarantine. My prediction is that decisions will be made as needed in order to keep people safe. I hope.
Earlier this week, president Martin Vizcarra’s new cabinet took the oath of office. Many of the ministers have previous political experience but are new to their positions in this cabinet. With this new group there seems to be a new focus on revitalizing the economy, especially in areas of extraction. Again, my hope is that decisions will be made in order to keep people safe. Far too often mining and logging result in environmental destruction and human misery. While it is very possible to mine in safe ways, governments often do too little to protect the health of the workers and the environment. Lead poisoning and unsafe water are all too common.
The combination of COVID-19 and economic problems can be a moment of reinvention or a time to double down on dangerous economic practices. People make those decisions; the future has yet to be written. I believe that we can care for each other and the environment as we rebuild a people-focused economy. We can, but will we?
Today marks day 100 that Peru has been in quarantine. In that time there have been more than 250,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 8,000 deaths. Peru even made it to #6 in the world of confirmed cases.
This is nothing to celebrate.
Through their actions, though, Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra, and his cabinet have probably saved many lives. For that, we can be thankful. The decisions by the leaders haven’t been perfect, nor have the actions of many citizens as they evaded or disregarded the precautions. In general, things could be much worse. The struggle continues.
As we mark day 100, my school year is ending. In 25 years of teaching, this is the first time I have been at one school for four consecutive years–actually 4 1/2 years. (I was in the St. Paul district longer, but at many different schools.) Ending a virtual semester brings the joy of accomplishment and the sadness of goodbye in an odd fashion: we’re not together in person. I miss being with my students and colleagues. Most of them I will see when we begin again, again virtually. Stay tuned to see when the quarantine ends and we go back to the brick and mortar.
A fond farewell to those who are leaving. I will be here. Online. Stay in touch.