Pain on the poor bank of the Thames

The Excel conference center, where governments, agencies and tourism professionals meet or display their offerings at the World Travel Market, one of the most important annual fairs in Europe, is now an empty shell, after the hospital closure campaign mounted by the British Army. Covid-19 supplemental sick beds were not required. And that despite the fact that the center, the neighboring airport, the new luxury residential buildings built on this bank of the Thames are the southern edge of the district of Newham, the one with the highest death rate: 144.3 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in the European country with the highest number of deaths.

In the motley landscape typical of East London, the clean outline of contemporary architecture is contiguous to old houses of working-class families. An English sexagerary, in the bus stopHe says that everything in his life and neighborhood “is normal.” A mother who walks with her daughter, both wearing a mask, Caribbean skins, confirms that her family has not been affected either.

A Nigerian man in his 40s returns with shopping bags: “I don’t know anyone sick, but a friend told me that a family lost someone. Newham is poor … I qI want this to stop and that we can all do what we want. It is what I pray for.

Urban planning of major streets with shops and hectares of terraced houses. On Green Street, the Queen’s Market is a daily hubbub around jewelery, fabric, clothing stalls … It is now closed, except for halal butchers for Muslims or fishmongers offering tilapia with eyes lacking freshness.

A salesman from this market rose to fame with the song ‘Un pez, una pora’. In the shop of Afro-Caribbean groceries distances are not respected. Outside, an abundance of people on the sidewalks. Maybe one in ten with a mask.


Jason Strelitz is the municipal director of Public Health. Achaca the transmission rate to the agglomeration in houses, cohabitation of generations, high population density, to the number of jobs in services and social assistance … And the severity of the results, that life expectancy has been lower in Newham than the national average for many years, due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes or air pollution.

According to a study published in December, transport causes the higher pollution in all the country. 52% of their children live at the official poverty level, although unemployment is not much higher than average. There are a very high number of families and individuals in temporary residence and evictions.

Strelitz stresses that local problems are not solved in the short term: “We now have the imperative to save lives, but we have to invest in the future.” The wave of virus transmission It occurred before confinement, according to his data, because the number of hospitalizations fell dramatically from the beginning of April.

To make confinement possible, the local City Council has spoken with 20,000 vulnerable families and individuals, out of a population of 365,000. Beside neighborhood associations, has distributed 70 tons of food, 150,000 prepared meals, also medicines. Has offered mental health assistance.

Moving through the East Ham neighborhood, a Sikh who is doing construction on his house does not know anyone affected either and then points his finger at each street door and nationality: «Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka, English, Romania, black, black, Romania, Pakistan, English … ». A Pakistani man in his sixties wearing a mask over his muslim beard Nor has he perceived the impact: «I have read it in the newspaper. Look, this is a residential area, maybe it has happened in towers, in Forest Gate. Bengalis and blacks sometimes live 15 in a flat ».

At the doorway of a Forest Gate tower, a young Englishman rides his bike for a ride: “There are no more than four or five in the apartments. Since televisions always talk about deaths, they have scared everyone. They are locked. Here people come and go all day and now … nobody! ». A sixty-year-old Indian comes out with a paper bag from the community pharmacy, in a nice neighborhood from Manor Park. He brings medicine for his oldest son, who has diabetes: “In families of my children’s friends three people have died.” And ask about the cases in Spain.

A hard life”

A 30-year-old pregnant Hungarian criticizes, near Stratford, for not following the rules. He associates the high mortality to houses converted into rental rooms, where nine or ten tenants live. “Life in London is very hard,” he says. You want to pay the rent and the food ».

Stratford was the epicenter of the Olympic Games in 2012. The area was “regenerated”. An intermodal station, a shopping center, towers and luxurious apartment houses were built. Between Caning Town and Stratford, where that clean and rich new world rises, most of Newham’s people remain. They are immigrants, refugees and British who live in precarious harmony.

The Labor Party member Stephen Timms has been a member of the region since 1994: “I believe that the experiences of this crisis will have a lasting effect on national politics,” he says. Satisfactory answers will have to be given to questions about why low-income communities like this have had such a hard impact. ”


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