Coronavirus is 'completely out of control' among Brazilian tribe

Coronavirus is ‘completely out of control’ among Brazilian tribe where one third of the 27,000 population is feared to have been exposed

  • Coronavirus cases have nearly quadrupled in three months in the Yanomami indigenous reservation in Brazil, according to a report
  • Indigenous rights groups argue illegal gold miners are a major contagion risk
  • Indigenous leaders accused the government of failing to protect their tribes

The spread of coronavirus is ‘completely out of control’ on the Yanomami indigenous reservation in northern Brazil, where cases have nearly quadrupled in three months, according to a report produced by their leaders.

More than a third of the reservation’s 27,000 people could have been exposed, the tribe revealed.

The Yanomami’s territory, which is also home to 600 Ye’kwana people, is the largest indigenous reservation in Brazil. 

It is threatened by swarms of illegal gold miners who have invaded their lands bordering Venezuela and are thought to be a major contagion risk.

The spread of coronavirus is ‘completely out of control’ on the Yanomami indigenous reservation in northern Brazil, where more than a third of the reservations 27,000 people could have been exposed, a report revealed. Pictured: Indigenous people from the Yanomami ethnic group in Brazil in July (file photo)

The Yanomami tribe is believed to be the largest indigenous people in Brazil and occupies over 200 villages across 2.3million acres on the Venezuelan border

The Yanomami, like all indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest, have little historic exposure to outside diseases, and have a tragic history of being devastated by epidemics. 

Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the reservation have risen some 260% between August and October – from 335 to 1,202 cases – according to the report. So far, there have been 23 confirmed deaths.  

‘Social distancing is impossible in indigenous villages, so around 10,000 Yanomami and Ye’kuana may have been exposed to the new coronavirus, more than one-third of the total population’ on the reservation the two groups share, the report, released on Thursday by the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum, said. 

‘The situation is completely out of control,’ it added. 

Brazil’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases are beginning to rise again after a gradual fall in cases between September and October. There were more than 30,000 cases recorded today in the country

Brazil has the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States, with more than 167,000 people killed.

The data was gathered from the indigenous health service and a survey by radio communication with the 366 villages, some of them still very isolated, across the 96,650 square kilometers (37,320 square miles) of reservation. 

The researchers’ figures are higher than the official ones from the Brazilian health ministry, which reports 1,050 cases and nine deaths for the territory. 

The reservation is home to around 27,000 people. It registered its first coronavirus cases and death in April.

Indigenous rights groups blame illegal gold miners for bringing the disease onto the reservation.

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has been accused by indigenous leaders of failing to protect the Yanomami people from the pandemic. Pictured: Bolsonaro speaks at the presidential palace on November 10 during a speech in which he told people to ‘stop being a country of f*gs’ in their response to the pandemic 

The report accused Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of failing to protect the Yanomami people from the pandemic. It said only 4.7% of the reservation’s population had been tested for COVID-19 and 70% of those tested were positive, but no tests had been done in one third of the villages. 

‘Every day more and more Yanomami are being exposed to infection by the virus,’ Dario Kopenawa, vice president of the Hutukara Yanomami Association and son of its main shaman Davi Kopenawa, told Reuters by telephone.

‘There are health professionals working here, but too few and they have no equipment. The federal government does not provide enough support,’ he said.

In July, a military mission visited a remote part of the reservation in helicopters, bringing protective equipment and medical supplies.

But its arrival with a group of journalists annoyed Yanomami leaders who saw it as an unannounced media show that undermined the tribe’s efforts to remain isolated from contagion.

Overall, 39,647 indigenous people have been infected by the new coronavirus in the country, and 877 have died, according to the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB).

Brazil has the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States, with more than 167,000 people killed.

The country is home to an estimated 800,000 indigenous people from more than 300 ethnic groups.

The Brazilian Amazon is home to at least 100 isolated tribes, more than anywhere else in the world, according to indigenous rights group Survival International.

The Yanomami, who are known for their face paint and intricate piercings, number around 27,000.

Largely isolated from the outside world until the mid-20th century, they were devastated by diseases such as measles and malaria in the 1970s.        

The government’s indigenous health service Sesai did not respond to a request for comment. 

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