Argentina has entered its third week of lockdown, and the halt in activity is hitting the economy hard. Faced with a slump in orders for magazines, one factory has switched to making basic protective equipment.
Madygraf is no ordinary printing company. In 2014, it became a cooperative when investors pulled out of the company. It is one of the many so-called ‘recovered factories’ in Argentina – where workers took control to keep their jobs after the country’s economic crash of 2001.
Now the coronavirus pandemic threatens a world-wide economic crisis – on top of the immediate uncertainty.
“It is a very delicate situation, very upsetting,” says Agustin Bustos. “We are working hard to contribute to (a solution to) this crisis. Emotionally it is very difficult, but we know that if we don’t work together it will be even worse.”
This cooperative voted to make protective equipment like face masks and antibacterial gel for local hospitals as a show of solidarity in a time of need.
The shortage of protective equipment for health workers is one of the largest threats to containing to spread of COVID-19. And Argentina, a country that has been in recession for two years, is all the more exposed.
Workers here say years of cuts in social spending have left Argentina at great risk.
“Argentina is treading a fine line,” explains Laura Arevalo at the factory. “40% of its population is under the poverty line and there is a high level of job insecurity. There has been a (presidential) decree that companies may not sack workers, but many people live day to day and this halt in economy has hurt entire families.”
There is apprehension over what awaits this country. With the number of coronavirus deaths still comparatively low, warehouses converted into hospitals remain ominously empty.
One local mayor says the early lockdown decreed by the national government has helped flatten the curve, but he is worried about how the local health system will cope with an expected spike in the coming weeks.
“The city of Buenos Aires has a better infrastructure in its health system,” says Julio Zamora, mayor of Tigre, a city half an hour north of the Argentine capital. “The province of Buenos Aires is behind in that sense. We are working to make sure the necessary materials are available for communities in the province so they can deal with this crisis the fastest possible.”
Many more donations like this will be needed in Argentina as the country prepares to deal with what it has seen – up until now – only from afar.