'Plague of The Snobs': How Coronavirus Pandemic Sparked Public Anger Against Global Elite


Over 500 of Mexico’s elite, including the country’s top businessmen, spent time at the resort town of Vail, Colo, during their yearly winter vacation. During those two weeks, they indulged in a range of recreational activities like skiing, shopping, and hosting dinners at lavish restaurants, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

But when their vacation ended, they had little clue about the nightmare that would soon unfold.

In March, when they returned to Mexico, around 50 of them had contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Those who contracted the viral infection included the head of Mexico’s stock exchange and the chief executive of the company that owns José Cuervo tequila, WSJ reported citing sources.

Public health authorities have termed the Vail vacation an infection hotspot for the country. Many say that international competitors – many who had come from Italy – transported the virus during a snowboarding event that was held in late February, the report said.

The same trend was observed across the world. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau caught the infection when she travelled to London in early March for a celebrity event.

Notably, artistes and actors from around the world also attended the function. Idris Elba, who was also present, later tested positive for Covid-19. The Canadian PM’s wife has since recovered, the report said.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, the initial cases were reported upon the return of travellers from Italy. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles, have both tested positive.

Johnson had travelled to a summit in Germany in January, but it is unclear if he caught the infection while traveling. Johnson was moved to an intensive care unit on Monday after his coronavirus symptoms worsened.

Vacation spots and ski resorts, in particular, have emerged as an epicentre of the infection. Authorities in Scandinavian countries announced this month that scores of travellers had contracted Covid-19 while holidaying in the alpine village of Ischgl in Austria, the report said.

“The majority (of people infected) are well-heeled, didn’t you know?” Miguel Barbosa, the governor of Mexico’s populous Puebla state which has reported 38 confirmed cases so far, was quoted as saying by WSJ.

Barbosa, who made these remarks at a presser in March, added, “If you’re rich, you’re at risk, but the poor, we’re immune.”

When fashion designer Carmela Hontou returned home to Uruguay from a holiday in Madrid, where coronavirus infections were increasing rapidly, she did not know that she had brought the virus to her home country. She then attended a grand wedding and infected more than 40 people, the WSJ report said.

Hontou received widespread criticism on social media and was even sued by the condominium board of the building where she resides, the report added. In Uruguay as well as neighbouring Argentina, the coronavirus has been given a notorious monicker – ‘La peste de los chetos,’ or ‘the plague of the snobs’.

In Mexico, class resentments were on display on social media when industrialist David Jassan tested positive for Covid-19 after mingling with friends who had been on the Vail holiday, WSJ report said.

After being diagnosed with the infection, Jassan shared a video of a chat with friends from his hospital room. “At a time when the Mexican government was still not telling citizens to start social distancing, Jassan urged quicker action to avoid overcrowded hospitals like (in) Spain and Italy”, the report added.

Jassan’s call led many of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s loyalists to call him “#LordNeumonia” on social media platforms, where he was labelled a “faker” wanting to bring shame to Mexico’s president by creating chaos over coronavirus, the report added.

The World Health Organisation has cautioned for years on the possible fallouts of the increase in air travel, saying it was making it harder to rein in epidemics, the report added.

“Blaming any particular group of people — as defined by their race, social status or national origin — for contracting the illness only makes it harder for doctors to treat it, because fewer people with symptoms will come forward for fear of public shaming, making it harder to track,” Dr Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told WSJ.

This, then, exposes societies at large to greater risk, particularly the poor, who are more likely to be denied access to essential services like health care.

“Any politician, anyone trying to blame coronavirus on the rich is actually endangering the poor,” Dr Nuzzo added.