The coronavirus threatens tribes that have deliberately refused to communicate with the world: most of these live in the Amazon basin in South America . However, sometimes they are forced to leave the jungle, and accidental contacts with neighboring peoples are inevitable. This means that the risk of transmission of infection increases.
Refused to contact
According to various estimates, from 150 to 200 non-contact peoples live on Earth. So called groups of people who know about the existence of human society, but do not want to interact with it. For the most part, these are the remnants of the indigenous population of South America, Papua New Guinea and the Andaman Islands .
The most famous are the northern Sentinelese from the island of the same name in the Indian Ocean . They constantly patrol their territory and attack anyone who comes close. In 2018, representatives of the warlike tribe shot and killed Ame-rican missionary John Ch-au, who hoped to convert the natives to Christianity.
Non-contact peoples are mainly engaged in hunting and gathering, some in primitive agriculture. For several centuries, they have been under the threat of extinction due to the onset of civilization, scientists from South America write in a recent review. The danger is poachers, resource companies, farmers, preachers and tourists. Under the influence of external interference, the tribes leave their habitual habitat and change their way of life.
Infections cause great damage to the indigenous population. The immunity of isolated tribes is not familiar with most of the pathogens circulating in the human population. Even the common cold virus is dangerous for them. The typical cause of death is from a disease brought in from outside. For example, measles outbreaks are kno-wn to have claimed the liv-es of the Andamanese Jara-wa and Yanomami Indians.
And in 2014, in the Brazilian state of Acre, fleeing from poachers, the Sapanava people, who had not previously been in contact with the world, entered the village. A few days later, many fell ill with the flu, and only timely medical care saved them from death.
Actually, the situation is not new. Over 90 percent of the Native American population died during colonization from infectious diseases. Now scientists fear that COVID-19 will reach isolated groups.
Researchers from the University of Mato Grasso note that ethnic minorities are most affected by the coronavirus in Brazil . They are six and a half times more likely to die from the disease than the general population. Scientists conducted a geographical analysis during the peak of the epidemic in the spring and summer of 2020 and identified 16 clusters that are most susceptible to outbreaks of infection. The two main ones are in the north of the country and in the middle west.
Not only the pandemic is to blame for the high mortality, the authors of the work believe. According to statistics, among indigenous peoples, as well as throughout the world, men and the elderly are more likely to die from covid. Apparently, long-term political and social isolation is making its contribution.
A similar situation is described by scientists from Ecuador. Due to isolation from civilization and underdeveloped infrastructure, small tribes, which make up seven percent of the population, are deprived of access to health care. Medical laboratories are exclusively in cities, their services are expensive.
Despite isolation, the virus penetrates into the most remote corners of the country. Specialists tested selectively 769 people from 14 small communities, and found positive results in 12. Sometimes up to half of the tests point to SARS-CoV-2. According to the oral testimonies of the heads of the tribes, people died from covid, but how many is unknown.
Of particular concern are the Tagaeri and Taromenanes, the last non-contact groups from the closed part of the Yasuni National Park. The infection can get to them through interaction with the Huaorani Indians.
Most of the infected in Brazil were found in the Arara tribe from the Amazon basin , who came into contact in 1987. At the peak of the epidemic, 46 percent of the Arar had a positive test, and there were only 121 of them.
Non-contact tribes live mainly in the forests of the Amazon basin – the richest ecosystem on the planet. Biodiversity provides them with a stable existence. However, the growing appetites of private and state companies are depriving the small inhabitants of their usual way of life, forcing them to interrupt their voluntary isolation.
So, in the summer of 2020, ten tribes entered the territory of an indigenous community in western Brazil. They took tools, bananas, hammocks, clothes and returned to the forest. All this forces specialists to look for ways to control such contacts. The challenge is to minimize the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks among the last small peoples living in harmony with nature.