The mandatory use of a mask is essential to stop the virus from spreading. However, its daily use can lead to a monthly expense that is not within the reach of the entire population. In the Canary Islands, just over 770,000 people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and of these, about 195,000 people earn less than 370 euros per month. For all, this new and unforeseen expense generated by going out on the street wearing a surgical mask -at 95 cents the unit in pharmacy- has become a true “luxury” that becomes “unfeasible”, which generates a new not only economic but also health gap between the population of the Islands.
This is stated by Jesús Alberto Cruz, animation coordinator for the Caritas community, who points out that this imposition is a grievance. “As in many other aspects, this also opens a gap,” says Ana Demetrio, spokesperson for the Canary Network in Defense of the Public System of Social Services (Redesscan), which indicates that masks are “an additional expense” that can suffer the economic capacity of a family that already, by itself, debates monthly between what to eat and how to pay bills.
For Demetrio, not being able to access this protection asset coincides with one of the elementary rights: the right to health. People who in many occasions, as the members of these organizations indicate, do not even have to pay the electricity bill, “they are not going to stop buying food for a mask,” insists Cruz.
The problem is aggravated the more the members who live in a family unit or when there are minors living in it. Those 30 euros a month that can cost the luxury going to crowded streets, going to the supermarket or taking public transport can be doubled or tripled depending on the families. So, for example, a single mother with two children over the age of six must spend at least 90 euros per month.
According to the latest report on the State of Poverty in the Canary Islands carried out by EAPN Spain, some 186,000 people in the Islands live in conditions of Severe Material Deprivation, that is, they cannot face at least four of nine concepts or items of defined basic consumption at the European level shown in the corresponding section. 54.7% of them, for example, cannot bear unforeseen expenses and for 8.5% it is impossible to eat meat, chicken or fish every other day.
But the thing does not stop there, because the imposition of the government can also cause people with fewer resources to end up either reusing too much their surgical masks -which lose effectiveness after four hours of use- or acquiring some made at home that are not approved and that can cause more harm than benefit. “They are good initiatives, but they are not the most recommended protection,” says Cruz. Some words that are ratified by Demetrius who considers that masks, when they are no longer useful, can also lead to foci of contagion among these people.
In fact, the head of the Public Health epidemiology section, Amós García Rojas, has stated on several occasions that not all masks are worth paying special attention to artisan ones. “They could serve as a surgical,” he said, but stressed that “they are not scientifically tested” and therefore, claimed not to be able to recommend it. In this sense, the Ministry of Health stated that the materials and manufacturing methods with which these masks are made are very diverse and may not have passed the control of verifications or tests. Therefore, it does not guarantee its effectiveness. Faced with this scenario, which is already causing a new gap in the Canarian population, third sector organizations agree that masks should be a commodity that benefits these groups at risk of exclusion, as is done with some medicines.