The virus of the poor

The virus of the poor

© pa / Geisler-Fotop / Christoph Hardt / Geisler-Fotopres
The settlement “Auf dem Kölnberg” in the Cologne district of Meschenich. Here too there is concern about a corona eruption Source: pa / Geisler-Fotop / Christoph Hardt / Geisler-Fotopres

A narrow company canteen, hundreds of people sit close together. It is April 8, and for more than a week there have been stricter regulations in North Rhine-Westphalia to more effectively contain the new corona virus in workplaces. Actually.

At the Tönnies slaughterhouse in Gütersloh, however, as evidenced by one Video, which is circulating on the net, is hardly noticeable by the new caution. Here people crowd without a minimum distance. This is despite the fact that around this time the first slaughterhouses in Germany have to close due to local outbreaks.

Around nine weeks later, Tönnies also reports more than 700 new infections. Prime minister Armin Laschet (CDU) goes awkwardly on root cause research: “Because Romanians and Bulgarians have entered the country and the virus has come from.” At least in one point it hits the mark: The example of Tönnies show “how quickly” a virus spreads, “if distances are not kept, if accommodations are not in order”.

It was skiers and business travelers who brought the corona virus to Germany. But the pandemic is now developing into a crisis for the poor. So-called distance rules and social distancing have prevented uncontrolled infection of society as a whole “Superspreader Events” Now especially people who live and work in precarious conditions: employees who live in tenements and work in narrow workshops, refugees in homes, homeless people.

Long before the Tönnies case, experts discussed the social component of the corona virus, especially in the United States and Great Britain. The platitude often shared in social networks that the virus makes no difference and therefore affects everyone turns out to be under-complex.

Death rate in poor neighborhoods more than twice as high

Above all, the look at the ethnicity of those affected by Corona is meaningful. In Georgia, around March, 83 percent of those treated in hospital were black, although only 32 percent of Georgia’s residents were black. A study by the non-governmental organization amfAR found in May that counties in which an above-average number of people are black (22 percent of the US counties examined) accounted for 58 percent of the country’s nationwide corona deaths.

According to experts, the higher death rate correlates with the social status of those affected. The poverty rate among blacks in the United States is more than twice that among whites. In Britain, the death rate per hundred thousand of men in poorer neighborhoods is 76.7 dead, more than double that in wealthy neighborhoods (35.9). WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says: “A crisis can exacerbate inequalities, which in many countries is reflected in higher rates of hospitalization and deaths among certain population groups.”

This also seems to be true in Germany. Have Hartz IV recipients according to an evaluation of insurance data a greatly increased risk of being hospitalized with a Covid-19 infection. The risk for ALG II recipients is therefore increased by 84.1 percent. ALG-I recipients, on the other hand, would have a 17.5 percent higher risk. The data from more than one million insured persons were evaluated for the study. Author Nico Dragano from the University Hospital Düsseldorf says: “If the results are confirmed, this would be further evidence of pronounced social differences in diseases in Germany.”

Confined spaces are a risk factor

The reasons for the significant differences between rich and poor in the corona crisis have not been fully researched. There are many causes: a generally poorer pre-health in precarious shifts, insufficient hygiene standards at work, a poorer supply of information and medication. In addition: the spatial tightness – at work and at home. This can also be observed in the case of Tönnies.

Many workers in meat factories often live in hundreds of collective accommodations, several residents share showers and toilets. In a review of around 650 accommodations in the meat industry, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia recently found serious shortcomings: lack of hygiene measures, overcrowding, mold, infestation, collapsing roofs, catastrophic sanitary facilities, rats and fire deficiencies. Four accommodations had to be cleared.

Proximity to other people alone would be a risk factor. Scientists came in a study in the magazine “Nature” concluded that the most contaminated rooms of two hospitals in Wuhan were the approximately one square meter toilet cubicles without air supply. A corona outbreak in a call center in South Korea infected 97 out of 811 employees. 94 of them were on the same floor, 79 in the same area. In conclusion, families who live in small apartments with several people are far more at risk than people in spacious apartments.

At the same time, less wealthy people – also outside of collective accommodation – are often exposed to more contacts. One points to that Study by the German Institute for Economic Research there. According to this, around 35 percent of Germans worked in the home office during the peak phase of the crisis. However, it was only 17 percent among low earners.

App in English and German – “They hardly speak both”

In the Berlin districts of Neukölln and Reinickendorf, entire residential units had to be quarantined recently. Patrick Larscheid, the official physician from Reinickendorf, is skeptical about the hope of controlling the outbreak with the new warning app.

“I see the app as a toy for the digital luxury class. It has nothing to do with the reality here in Reinickendorf, ”said Larscheid the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. He speaks of “hypocrisy” that does not help those who are really at risk: “These people get sick again and again because they live the way they live – in poor conditions.” He and his colleagues would therefore expect “nothing” from the app .

The medical officer addresses another problem: information gathering. With regard to the Sinti and Roma families particularly affected in Berlin, Larscheid says: “People actually have cell phones, but the app is available in German and English, they hardly speak either.” of all fail where the risk of infection is high anyway.


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