The dreaded coronavirus has found its way to the secluded Andaman Islands in India, infecting 10 members of a diminishing tribe as the health crisis continues to wreak havoc on far-flung areas of the globe, health authorities told BBC.
Four of the tribe members inhabiting the remote islands tested positive for the virus last week, while six others residing in a city contracted the disease a month earlier.
Only 59 members are left of the Great Andamanese tribe, who live on 37 islands in the Indian archipelago and are provided by the Indian government with food and shelter. Officials told AFP that six of the 10 have recovered and have been placed in home isolation, while the rest are being treated at a local medical facility.
Over 5,000 Great Andamanese tribespeople inhabited the islands when European settlers arrived in the 19th century, anthropologists and cause-oriented groups for marginalized tribal communities said. But hundreds perished in territorial wars as the tribe fought off British invaders.
Thousands more died due to illnesses like measles, influenza, and other highly contagious diseases, Survival International reported. The Andamanese population has been decreasing in the last few years as they lack appropriate health care and their vulnerability to alcoholism and tuberculosis has added to the misery.
According to senior health chief Dr. Avijit Roy, the virus had reached the archipelago despite the COVID-19 testing conducted on each person who traveled to any of the 37 islands. The eastern region of Nicobar and Andamans has registered 2,985 cases of the virus, with more than 40 mortalities since the first infection was reported in early June.
Roy said that keeping the virus from spreading further among the islands' other tribes is now the main priority of the local government. On Thursday, India said it had tallied 75,760 new cases of COVID-19, increasing the country's total to more than 3 million. More than 1,023 deaths have been registered by health authorities in a 24-hour period, taking India's total to 60,472.