A Line a mile long for free food in Geneva. The virus crisis has exposed how many live on the edge in a very wealthy city.

June 2 : The first people arrived before 2 a.m. By 4 a.m. more than 100 people stood waiting in the darkness outside the ice hockey stadium.

By 7 a.m., the line stretched for more than a mile, heading north to the river, then went down the riverbank, then all around a sports center parking lot, then past the squash courts, the boxing club, the theater and under the Pont de Saint Georges before doubling back up a riverside corniche.

By early afternoon one Saturday last month, nearly 3,000 residents of Geneva, one of the world's richest cities, had filtered through the stadium to receive food parcels worth about $25, Some carried babies, some were in wheelchairs. Some had waited for more than six hours.

In medical terms, Geneva has not been as gripped by the coronavirus crisis as other areas of Western Europe. In the Swiss city and its suburbs, fewer than 300 residents have died in a population of half a million.

But in economic terms, the crisis has been ruinous for Geneva's underclass - the undocumented and underpaid workers who are often forgotten about in a city better known for its bankers, watch makers and U.N. officials.

Thousands of people working in the shadows of the Swiss economy lost their jobs overnight in March, as hotels, restaurants and families fired their undocumented cleaners and maids in response to a lockdown enforced by the Swiss government to rein the coronavirus.

Unable to draw on state support, more then forced to rely on charity to survive. Ultimately, that demand led volunteers and Geneva officials to set up a weekly food bank at the ice hockey stadium near the river.

If you wanted to pictogram Geneva, what would you put?'' said Laura Cotton, a Swiss-British hospital decorator who volunteers at the stadium. ''Money, money, money. And, OK........cheese and chocolate.''

''But Covid has showed the flip side,'' Ms. Cotton added.

The coronavirus infection rate has plummeted in Geneva in recent weeks, allowing the authorities to markedly ease social distancing restrictions.

But the economic impact on the city's poorest remains dire.

Sukhee Shinendorj, a 38 year old from Mongolia, was already living on the cusp of poverty even before coronavirus reached Switzerland. He earned about $1,000 a month as a restaurant cleaner -barely enough to feed his two children in expensive Geneva.

Then in March the restaurant where he worked shut, prompting his boss to fire him. Now Mr. Shiinendorj fears losing his apartment, and relies on the stadium handouts for food.

On that Saturday, May 23, he work up at 1 a.m. and walked two miles to the stadium to try to beat the line. But there were already several people waiting.
''Catastrophe,'' Ms. Shinendorj said of his situation. ''It's a catastrophe.''

The honor and serving of the latest happening and state in the world, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Patrick Kingsley.


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