COVID-19 Spreads Through 40 Indigenous Tribes in the Amazon, Experts Fear An Outbreak Might Lead to Extinction
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than four million people across the world and killed over 320,000 individuals, has now affected indigenous tribe members living within the Amazon rainforest, according to latest reports. Experts fear the disease might lead to a devastating extinction of the world's isolated tribes.
On Tuesday, Ecuadorian health officials recorded the first tribesperson in the country to be infected with the contagious respiratory illness. The 17-year-old woman belonged to the Waorani tribe living in the rainforest. She started showing symptoms on May 4 and was taken to a hospital in the country's capital. The patient was reportedly pregnant at the time she contracted the virus.
The federal government collaborated with the indigenous leaders to check on more than 40 people who came into close contact with the unnamed woman. According to the health ministry, seventeen were found with a history of respiratory illnesses-six of which were still showing symptoms. Over 27 rapid tests and nose swabs were conducted.
In the Brazilian Amazon, health officials reportedly evacuate COVID-19 patients by plane as the virus rapidly spreads among the indigenous people living in the most remote area of the country's rainforest.
Government authorities more than 40 tribal groups were hit by the virus. As of Monday, 92 indigenous tribesmen and tribeswomen died due to the COVID-19 crisis. The victims all lived in isolated territories, with some located near the Amazon river bordering Colombia and Peru.
APIB, Brazil's main tribal organization, said 103 indigenous people who migrated to urban areas have also died. APIB said they recorded 540 confirmed coronavirus cases within the 40 afflicted tribes. The virus is spreading so rapidly that Manaus, a city close to the rainforest, have run out of bed spaces in the ICU. The dead are also collectively buried in graves.
Experts and advocates for isolated indigenous communities around the world say they fear that the remoteness of the villages as well as the members' inability to observe social distancing could make the COVID-19 worse. The villages lack proper sanitary conditions and are practising communal living arrangements. They also very limited access to health care services, including hospitals and medical resources.
Leila Salazar-Lopez, the executive director of the Amazon Watch, said the virus poses a threat of possible ethnocide within the communities.
The tribesmen previously began blockading the entrance to their villages in a bid to keep their members from contracting the deadly virus. However, many invaders have taken advantage of the coronavirus situation.
In Brazil, the number of outsiders entering protected territories has escalated in the previous years. The trespassers have continued activist, including illegal logging and mining. Experts say the invaders may have introduced the virus to the indigenous communities.
In previous years, Brazil has seen episodes of contagious and viral diseases. The outbreaks led to an extremely high mortality rate within the communities, with some going extinct due to the threat.
Galina Angarova, the executive director of an advocacy group, said the virus would obliterate many of the communities.
"They are our walking encyclopedias," she said. "If that's lost, we're losing part of our history."
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