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Fears for Brazil's indigenous people as coronavirus deaths spike

There are grave fears over the impact of coronavirus in Brazil's indigenous populations. Source: AAP

The coronavirus mortality rate among Brazil's indigenous communities is twice as high as the mortality rate for the general population.

Health workers are scrambling to protect Brazil’s indigenous communities as coronavirus spreads through remote parts of the Amazon rainforest.

The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) advocacy group has been tracking COVID-19 infections and deaths among the country’s 900,000-strong indigenous populations.

The group has recorded some 980 confirmed infections among indigenous communities and at least 125 deaths.

The Amazon city of Manaus in Brazil has been forced to bury people in mass graves after coronavirus swept through the region.
The Amazon city of Manaus in Brazil has been forced to bury people in mass graves after coronavirus swept through the region.
Fotoarena/Sipa USA

Those numbers would suggest a mortality rate of more than 12 per cent among Brazil’s indigenous peoples, which is double the nationwide mortality rate of 6 per cent.

Some 40 separate indigenous groups are thought to have been infected with coronavirus, APIB has estimated.

Paediatric doctor Edson Santos Rodrigues has been working on medevac planes helping patients in isolated parts of the Brazilian rainforest. 

“The number of COVID-19 patients has increased a lot. We are flying more planes (up the rivers); it's the last opportunity to save their lives,” he told Reuters. 

Cemetery workers in protective clothing bury the bodies of COVID-19 victims at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Cemetery workers in protective clothing bury the bodies of COVID-19 victims at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
AAP

"Sometimes we don't get there in time, because we cannot land at night on remote airfields that have no lights.”

With nearly 350,000 confirmed cases, Brazil now has the second-biggest caseload in the world after the United States. It has registered more than 22,000 deaths.

Experts say under-testing means the real figures are likely to be far higher in both the general population and in indigenous populations.

The Amazon city of Manaus has been hit so hard it has been forced to bury people in mass graves. 

Brazil is the second largest coronavirus hotspot in the world, with only the United States doing worse.
Brazil is the second largest coronavirus hotspot in the world, with only the United States doing worse.
AAP

Prominent photographer Sebastiao Salgado has warned of a "genocide" of the Amazon's indigenous peoples if the Brazilian government does not do more to protect them from the coronavirus.

"If the virus gets into the forest, they don't have the means to help. The distances are so huge. The indigenous people will be abandoned," he said.

US President Donald Trump issued an order on Sunday that bans entry into the US for anyone who has been in Brazil within the previous 14 days. 

"I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or non-immigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States," the order said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Source AFP - SBS, Reuters - SBS

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