Ideas

Coronavirus Profiteers: With The Virus Come The Vultures

While we see a general boost in solidarity, a small minority is looking to profit from the COVID-19 tragedy, feeding on a weakened and distracted society.

Buenos Aires police detain a suspect on March 22 after the national quarantine began.
Alberto Amato

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — When tragedy strikes, as it has with the COVID-19 pandemic, the vultures are always quick to descend. These scavengers come to feed off a society that is ailing, threatened or defenseless. They are a minority, for sure, but there are still far too many.

The first of these vultures tried to flout the mandatory confinement. The old Argentine society — the one that existed before the virus and is giving way to a new, yet-to-be-understood reality — hates abiding by rules. It admires countries where people respect the rule of law, but doesn't like to follow those same laws here, its own territory.

Years ago, during the dictatorship and in order to organize automobile traffic, someone thought of limiting circulation on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to cars with an even number plate. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays would be for cars with odd number plates, and on Sundays, anyone could drive. But right away, exceptions and exemptions began to emerge. Doctors, professors, sewerage operatives, accordion players, civil servants, soldiers, diplomats ... Everyone found an excuse not to comply, and so, within a month there was no telling who was supposed to drive when.

Disobedient civilians are placing lives at risk.

In that case, the civil disobedience wasn't really a matter of life and death. Our lives, after all, were already in the hands of a dictatorial junta. But today's disobedient civilians, not to mention all the people who are just plain idiots, are placing lives at risk.

The second wave of vultures infected — and yes, that is the right word — the social networks with the sinister trend of fake news, lies, fraud, magic recipes against contagion like washing in your urine or chewing a piece of garlic while fasting and the like ... There are the tasteless memes too — from all those irrepressible funnymen who think they're as clever as ever.

The third wave of vultures also swooped in on the back of Internet. An increase in home working and banking operations online, alongside an overflow of malicious mails, have proved a boon to hackers and all those who are keen, as always, to steal personal data or harm hospital, media or security systems. In more prosaic form, common criminals have also sought to enter residential blocks and flats, using fake IDs to pose as telecom technicians, doctors, ambulance drivers, healthcare workers or firemen.

While the vultures scavenge, the majority of people are of a very different mindset.

The rest of the scavenging pack is to be found in politics. Some will estimate the final death toll and use the pandemic to settle old scores from their time in government, or bring out their tattered old political IOUs. Others blame the pandemic on a particular social sector in a bid to consolidate their populist discourse. Yet others will try to piggyback on the appreciation being shown to medics and nurses, presenting their achievements as those of a government they hardly represent.

Curiously, while the vultures scavenge, the majority of people are instead of quite a different mindset. We're seeing an unusual, if not unprecedented, revaluation of certain overlooked professions: supermarket cashiers, shelf stackers or bank employees refilling ATM machines, trash collectors, carers in old people's homes, doctors and nurses who risk their lives on an invisible front line.

Indeed, a big chunk of society is applauding and singing to them from their balconies, belting out the national anthem, in some cases. These are expressions of gratitude, but also fear. Not that the vultures care. They feed on corpses.



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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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