Outside an old blue and white school in northeastern Spain, dozens of agricultural workers are waiting their turn to be vaccinated against coronavirus by a team of nurses.
Spain, a key supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables to the rest of Europe, is running to immunize the army of cheap labor that follows the ripening of different crops across the country as the harvest season approaches. .
The aim is to prevent the recurrence of COVID-19 outbreaks among agricultural workers in the north-eastern regions of Catalonia and Aragon last year which fueled an increase in infections, which led to localized blockages.
“Last year we had a very bad time. The municipalities were closed, the fruit packing stations were closed due to the cases of COVID,” said Jordi Janes, the mayor of Alcarras, a city nearby of 10,000 inhabitants near the city of Lleida.
“This gives us peace of mind,” he added, standing outside the vaccination center established at the city school to immunize about 400 workers from agro-industrial companies in the area.
When they enter the school, agricultural workers are asked for their ID and the name of the company that employs them.
They then go to another room where a nurse gives them a Johnson & Johnson shot of a single dose.
“They have given us all great joy,” said Kelly Johanna Hurtado Marian, a 22-year-old Colombian who recalled how many of her classmates had the virus last year.
He worked “hard” to make up for his absence, he said.
According to Spain’s vaccination program, most people their age will have to wait weeks before getting the puncture, but agricultural workers have taken precedence.
This fruit-producing region that produces apples, pears and peaches usually attracts about 20,000 storms agricultural workers from as far away as Colombia or Senegal for the harvest season.
But last year the number of people looking for work on the farm skyrocketed as a pandemic-induced economic crisis left people jobless.
Many were illegal immigrants who ended up living on the streets or in cramped homes that favored the transmission of the virus.
Currently, only employees of agro-industrial companies are punched, but some locals want people who appear looking for work, even if they are illegal immigrants, to be vaccinated.
The Generalitat de Catalunya plans to vaccinate everything farm hands finally, but says the priority now is the ones that already work.
“These people are here, sleeping on the street, unable to wash and it’s very easy to get infected. And that’s a time bomb,” said Josep Maria Companys, a 61-year-old local farmer.
“If they are vaccinated here, they will already be vaccinated when they move to other parts of the country,” Companys added, as he watched his workers clean the fruit trees.
Time, however, is running out.
He harvest season it has once again attracted people looking for work and who have ended up on the street.
“There is no job because of the virus and I came here looking for it,” said Ousman, a 33-year-old illegal immigrant from Senegal who came to Lleida from northern Spain where he earned his living as a street vendor.
“But there is nothing here either, I don’t have a house and it’s very hard,” he added, in a central square in Lleida where dozens of migrants had gathered.
Amady, a 51-year-old Senegalese, has a similar history, although she is a legal resident.
“I had a good job as a welder, but I lost it with the pandemic. I’ve been out of work for almost a year and I said why not try to look in Lleida,” he said.
After sleeping hard three nights, he found a bed in a hostel opened last year by the Arrels Sant Ignasi Foundation, a charity that helps the homeless.
Its 11 beds are full and the waiting list is long.
“Last year the city was confined and this made more visible the number of people sleeping on the streets. But this has been for years and will be the same again this year,” said the charity’s president. , Roger Torres.
© 2021 AFP
Citation: Spain rushes to vaccinate agricultural workers against the “time bomb” of the virus (2021, May 27) recovered on May 27, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-spain-vaccinate- farm-workers-virus.html
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