indigenous tribe
Image: Flickr/NIAID

Coronavirus Diagnosed in Indigenous Tribe of Remote Andaman Islands

Till now, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted nearly all major countries of the world and has continued to spread further. The latest statistics on the health crisis show that the global number of infections has even crossed twenty-five million. Now, several reports on further transmission are showing that the virus has reached even the farthest populations, including the indigenous tribe of the remote Andaman Islands located near the southwest coast of Myanmar in the Indian Ocean.

According to the indigenous human rights group, Survival International, at least eleven people of the Great Andamanese tribe, which has resided in the islands for centuries, have contracted the coronavirus infection. Three out of them have successfully recovered while eight are still hospitalized.

At the moment, the organization is unclear on how the virus reached the tribe but there are rising fears of it reaching even farther. Prior to the detection of coronavirus in the Great Andamanese tribe, members of a number of indigenous groups from South America were also diagnosed with the infection.

For instance, the first coronavirus-related death in the indigenous Yanomami tribe of Brazil was reported back at the beginning of the pandemic in April. Now, the virus has also been diagnosed in other tribes living in Amazon and is expected to reach others as well too.

Read also: Global Coronavirus Cases Cross 25 Million As the Pandemic Worsens 

In addition to the Great Andamanese tribe, there are also several other tribes living on the Andaman Islands, including the Sentinelese tribe. During the past three decades, the Sentinelese has struck down all forms of contact with any populations outside of the island.

However, they are still said to be at risk of exposure to the coronavirus due to possibly coming into contact with poachers who frequently visit the island for catching fish.

The spread of coronavirus in indigenous populations is a far bigger threat than in any of the countries as it may actually completely end the tribe. This is because people from indigenous tribes usually do not have the developed immunity as any person living in an urbanized country does.

Therefore, they can easily lose their lives to even the most treatable pathogens in urban countries. As a matter of fact, the Great Andamanese have already experienced a massive loss of lives when the Islands were occupied by the British in the nineteenth century.

During the time, many new diseases were common in Britain including syphilis, measles, and influenza, which then also spread further in the population of the islands. Eventually, the population of five thousand people of the tribe decreased over time and is said to have reached as low as nineteen. Currently, there are also only fifty people of the  Great Andamanese left on the island.

Along with awareness on self-protection from the coronavirus, there is also a need for making people realize the potential threat they can pose to other people who may not have immunity against the virus and may not survive. Just like vulnerable groups in urban cities such as older adults and those with certain health conditions, indigenous people are at very high risk.