Historic Peruvian bull ring converted to virus homeless shelter

Lima (AFP) –


Lima has converted an 18th century bull ring into a homeless shelter to protect its most vulnerable people from the coronavirus pandemic, despite protests from bull-fighting activists.

"We have to give them the best quality so that we can ensure they aren't exposed to an infection situation and don't infect other people either," said Lima's mayor Jorge Munoz.

The shelter opened on Tuesday in the capital, the worst affected city in Peru by the virus, and will initially host 30 people, rising progressively to 150.

They will receive food, health services and security.

With a population of nearly 10 million, Lima had registered 718 of the country's 950 cases by Monday, according to official figures.

The Plaza de toros de Acho, opened in 1776, is the oldest bull ring in the Americas.

For the duration of its time as a homeless shelter it will be known as "Everyone's House," the city said.

It is due to serve as a shelter until April 12, during the nighttime curfew that has been imposed in Peru -- from 6:00 pm to 5:00 am.

In the days leading up to its opening, authorities fumigated the arena and laid a protective flooring, erected a giant tent and brought in beds.

The move has angered Peru's Cultural Bullfighting Association, which has argued that bullfighting is "cultural heritage" and that the arena does not meet the necessary sanitary levels for a shelter.

The association has complained about Munoz to the culture ministry, arguing that there are other, more suitable sites for a homeless shelter.

"Due to its use, the Plaza de Acho -- mainly in the arena and its surroundings -- has lots of bacteria that will affect the health of people that set up to live inside it," the association said in a statement shared on Twitter.

Peru has declared a state of emergency and the country has been on lockdown since March 16.

Its borders and schools are closed, and business has been suspended except for food stores, pharmacies and banks.

Peru has animal rights laws but also a clause exempting bull and cock fighting as it considers them "cultural shows."