June 24, 2020
by Évelyne Mesclier, Director of the Institut Français d’Études Andines in Lima (Peru).
Mid-June 2020, emerging countries, large and small, are at the top of the list of statistics of confirmed coronavirus cases published by Johns Hopkins University. Brazil, India, Peru, Chili, Iran, Turkey, Mexico, are the countries that are the most impacted today.
Strange? Probably not. According to the last studies, the coronavirus did not just enter once in the countries where it spread. So, over 1300 people would have introduced the virus in Great Britain, and not just a single "patient zero" . Therefore, its spread is a matter of probabilities, more so than luck or bad luck. In fact, since the beginning of the health crisis, the coronavirus first spread to countries that were the most connected countries in the world, those whose main airports move up to hundreds of millions of passagers per year, bringing to mind the "archipel mégapolitain mondial" (global megalopolitan archipelo) that the geographer, Olivier Dollfus, associated with globalization and that particularly includes the Northeastern cities of the US, those that form an arch from the Pô plain to the London bassin via the Paris region and those of Pacific Asia . With the flow of tens of millions of passagers per year in international airports, emerging countries were also extremely exposed, with a delay of a few weeks.
As opposed to the Northern countries, the emerging ones were able to put measures in place sooner. Thus, in Peru where the first case was spotted on March 6th, the government adopted drastic measures at about the same time as the European countries: confinement for the whole population on March 16 and curfew at night and on Sundays; distribution of money and food to the poorest and most vulnerable people. But on June 19, the results were disappointing. The virus spread to a number of regions in the country, the daily number of new cases is still high (between 3500 to 4000 per day), and despite the speedy reinforcement of the healthcare structures, the lack of supplies and personnel can be felt in the hospitals. Photos of patients' families in long waiting lines to get an oxygen bottle went around the world. With almost 250000 confirmed cases  out of a population of about 30 million people, and 7660 people officially deceased from the coronavirus, Peru is one of the countries in the world that is the most affected, despite a quarantine of over 90 days.
At the national level, the map of the contagion confirms the relationship between the dense traffic of people and the spread of the virus. In a very centralized country, the Lima-Callao urban area, where a third of the national population lives, has almost accumulated two thirds of the infected people, first in the richest neighborhoods, places where people who travel the most are living, where the quarantine has been widely respected (see photo 1), then on the outskirts, where the population, for various reasons, could not stay fully confined . The Amazon, less densely populated, still saw a great number of cases, probably due to the different border traffic dynamics, harder to control because of having to deal with the illegal and illicit. For a long time, the South and a section of the Cordillera were spared, even though Arequipa, the country's second largest city, now has over 5500 confirmed cases. The coastal plains, from the most Northern tip to Ica in the South of Lima, were quickly hit by the epidemic, so much so that, with as of now over half the cases in the region, the government reinforced the curfew.
These plains are precisely one of the major arteries of Peru's economic emergence. Its landscape has radically changed over the last thirty years. Thousands of acres of desert have been irrigated thanks to constructions built by the government or by the private sector, leveled and cultivated by agribusinesses for export (photo 2). Next to these big properties, the temporary workers who are the main labor have built living quarters, badly equiped in infrastructures for the most part (photo 3). The cities that occupy the bottom part of the oasis, at the mouth of the rivers coming down from the Cordillera, have seen a surge in demographic growth. Precarious neighborhoods have spread on the outskirts. On the Pan American Highway, which crosses this region from North to South, buses of passagers and temporary agricultural workers, trucks filled with sugar cane, modern trailers that have little by little replaced the rickety vehicles of previous decades, created until recently a dense traffic (photo 4). In this situation, it wasn't long before the virus appeared, first in the large cities.
It also arrived quickly, in a rather surprising way, in more modest locations such as Olmos, an area with 50000 residents (of which 15000 live in the urban center) nestled in a semi-desert zone between two large oasis sites and comprised of farmers, livestock breeders, shopkeepers and federal employees. The export agribusinesses have rapidly established themselves there in the past several years because they benefited from a large irrigation project financed by the government in partnership with the private company Odebrecht. From an economic standpoint, it's a great example of a quick integration into globalization.
The first official death from Covid19 happened at Olmos on April 12 , when there were still only 193 deaths nationally. On April 6, a concerned woman posted on the city's Facebook page  that the people who were working on the "new lands" risked catching the virus and contaminating the sector; one other resident pointed out that companies continued to bring employees from Chiclayo, the closest big city, which exposed the population to the virus. On April 15, a resident condemned, on the same page, the agribusinesses for requiring that the microbus drivers insure the transportation of the employees to their workplace - the newly cultivated lands are about half an hour from the city. Since these companies are part of the food sector, considered "essential", their activity has in fact been tolerated discreetly by the authorities, when the work conditions are much more likely to spread the virus than on family farms (photos 5 and 6) .
On April 16, on another topic, one resident expressed her fear of the potential risk with the arrival at Olmos of people coming back from their trip or migrating. For the past several years, buses connect Olmos to Lima directly, where thousands of people, traveling for a variety of reasons or lacking the means to stay in town, then asked to be "repatriated" to their home towns, a request the government finally gave in to. On June 2nd, coronavirus tests done on vendors, many of whom were still occupying the narrow streets of downtown Olmos (photo 7) at the start of the pandemic - while waiting to be able to set up in the new covered market, inaugurated hastily in April - showed that about twenty, out of a hundred, were positive. The stadium built at the same time as the irrigated perimeter, disproportionate for the size of the area, was changed over into a rural hospital in the beginning of June  - the township was supposed to get a real hospital, a pending promise.
These various remarks and facts reflect first of all the powerlessness of the residents to act on decisions that are taken outside of the township. Olmos' relationships with the outside, having become more intense, cannot quickly be untangled during the health crisis. The government who authorized the companies' activities and the return of migrants, and the agribusinesses who demanded their employees continue working, have more weight than the town authorities and the risk to their interests is not the same as the residents'. Also, the unkept promises with respect to the installation of an irrigation perimeter contibutes to the perception of insecurity and its reality: it is impossible to respect the social distancing measures when going to the market, and the closest hospital is an hour's drive away. And so the failure to improve the infrastructures that should have been part of the demographic and commercial growth has also shaped the residents' vulnerability to the epidemic. It is also tied to corruption, which isn't new in Peru : the Olmos project is associated with the activities of the Brazilian company Odebrecht, exposed during the Lava Jato investigation (Operation Car Wash) which led to prison terms for several previous Peruvian presidents of the Republic, an ex governor from the Lambayeque region, and the mayor of Olmos. The embezzlement explains why a portion of the government investments did not really benefit the residents as much as it could have. That the accountability was so fragile says a lot about the cracks in the Peruvian democracy.
Under the spotlight of Covid-19, that is traveling with globalization, the shadows  that have been a part of Peru's participation in it also bluntly appear. For sure, the growth has given the government the means to quickly improve a health, financial aid and food distribution system. But, based on the extraction and export of natural resources (mineral, fossil fuel, groundwater), the economic model has limited the development of other sectors. It marginalizes the internal market and local territories and entrusts the reduction in poverty to just a "trickle". So, the "Dutch disease", a disease originally social and political, is playing into the hands of the coronavirus, in Peru as in other similar situations probably where the rapid arrival of the epidemic and the weakness of the society's capabilities to defend itself against it.
 BBC News, June 10, 2020, J. Gallagher: Coronavirus came to UK ‘on at least 1,300 separate occasions’
 See Olivier Dollfus, La mondialisation. Presses de Sciences Po. 1997, p.25 to 30 ; and Évelyne Mesclier, Unas pistas desde la geografía para comprender mejor la epidemia de coronavirus y controlarla. 04/21/2020. In “Notas sobre la pandemia”.
 The number of confirmed cases given by Peru includes the results of the molecular and serological tests.
 Many residents of the outlying neighborhoods have jobs in areas considered "essential" (policie, army, health, food distribution...), and continued working under conditions that were not very protected initially; others earn a living day to day and cannot stay confined; others or the same ones don't have a refrigerator and must go to the market almost every day, or don't have running water and must wait in long lines to buy some at the water tank trucks; or don't have a bank account and have waited in line to get federal aid. This multiple trips are done in areas that are usually densely populated, and tight quarters do not allow for sick people to be isolated.
 Data from the Regional Government of Lambayeque, Reporte Covid-19, Situación al 12 de abril, Lambayeque, reposted on the city of Olmos' Facebook page.
 This was analyzed in April by the anthropologist Ana Lucía Araujo Raurau: Entre la precariedad laboral y la crisis sanitaria: La situación de los trabajadores agroindustriales, Noticias, SER.PE, April 10, 2020.
 Coronavirus: estadio de Olmos se convierte en centro de aislamiento, La Republica.
 See A. Quiroz' book that has become a classic, Historia de la corrupción en el Perú. IEP, 2013
 Described in the special edition Problèmes d’Amérique Latine published in 2013, “Pérou : émergence économique et zones d’ombre” (ed. I. Hurtado, É. Mesclier)
Évelyne Mesclier is the Director of the Institut Français d’Études Andines in Lima (Peru). PhD in geography at the University Paris7 and Professor at the University Paris1-Panthéon-Sorbonne, Researcher at the IRD and associate member of the research lab (UMR 8586) Prodig.