COVID-19 Continues to Threaten the Indigenous Tribes of the Amazon

Way back on April 13 I posted a story about how the coronavirus had spread so far and wide that it had actually reached the indigenous tribes of the Amazon. The intent of that story at the time was to show that no corner of the globe was safe at a time when we were all under quarantine and lockdown. When I wrote that piece, just a handful of people who call the remote regions of the Amazon hoe had come into contact with COVID-19, and only a few had perished as a result. But now, just two months later, the picture is a very different one, with dozens now dead and the potential for serious tragedy looming.

According to National Geographic, On May 1, just 17 days after I wrote that four five members of Amazon tribes had passed away due to the virus, that number had already risen to 46 deaths. Fast forward to six weeks later, and now more than 260 members of Amazon tribes in Brazil have succumbed to COVID-19. Worse yet, as the rest of Brazil is ravaged by the disease, there seems to be little hope that it will slow down in the Amazon or that there will be much in the way of outside help to assist the indigenous people that call the rainforest home. If that wasn’t enough, the coronavirus is especially deadly to the tribes of the Amazon, where it is recording a death rate of 9.1%. By comparison, that number is 5.2% amongst the Brazilian population at a whole.

It is speculated that virus was originally introduced into the Amazon by healthcare workers and wildcat miners, many of which probably didn’t even know they were infected in the first place. A recent reported called out doctors and nurses who work with the tribes directly for not taking proper procedures to prevent the spread of the disease before interacting with the locals. A number of healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days as well, indicating that they likely spread it to the people they were hoping to protect.

At the time of that April 13 article that I metneionc above, only about 22,000 cases of the coronavirus had been reported worldwide, with about 1200 deaths. Since that time, those numbers have risen dramatically. In Brazil alone, there have now been more than 867,000 cases and 44,000 deaths. Unfortunately, things are only continuing to get worse in that country, which doesn’t seem like it is currently anywhere close to a peak or flattening the curve. That means that the indigenous tribes aren’t likely to get much assistance in the near future either. What that means for them in the long run is unclear, but it seems likely that their populations will be devastated by the virus and potentially their entire way of life.


Kraig Becker