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Travelling at 'frightening speed', coronavirus has hit 38 Indigenous groups in Brazil

Indigenous Brazilians attend the funeral of the cacique Messias Kokama, 14 May 2020. Source: EFE

The coronavirus is reaching Indigenous territories across Brazil 'with frightening speed', according to the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples' Association.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit 38 Indigenous groups in Brazil, raising fears for populations that have a history of being decimated by outside diseases, the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples' Association (APIB) said Friday.

"The virus is reaching Indigenous territories across Brazil with frightening speed," the association said in a statement. 

An APIB survey found 446 cases of the new coronavirus and 92 deaths among the affected groups, mainly in the Brazilian Amazon.

The grim news came a day after the Indigenous community of Parque das Tribos, outside the northern city of Manaus, held a funeral for its chief, Messias Kokama, who died of COVID-19.

Kokama, who was 53, was buried in a closed casket wrapped in plastic to avoid spreading the virus.

Brazil, the Latin American country hit hardest in the pandemic, has seen its death toll spiral.

It has registered nearly 15,000 deaths and 220,000 cases so far, though experts say under-testing means the real figures could be 15 times higher or more. 

The pandemic is also creating an opening for illegal miners and loggers to encroach on Indigenous lands, said rights group Survival International.

"Countless tribal lands are being invaded, with the backing of a government which wants to completely destroy the country's first peoples and makes no attempt to hide it," said the group.

It criticised far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for his push to open protected Indigenous lands to farming and mining.

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

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