With the Wuhan coronavirus increasing its footprint among the indigenous people in Brazil, including those residing in the Amazonian rainforest, doctors are now evacuating patients who are severely affected by the COVID-19 disease by plane.
“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,” said Edson Santos Rodrigues, a pediatric doctor working on medevac planes for the state of Amazonas while adding, “Sometimes we don’t get there in time, because we cannot land at night on remote airfields that have no lights”.
According to a report from the Brazilian government’s indigenous health service Sesai, at least 23 indigenous people have died from COVID-19. All of the victims were in remote tribal territories, with 11 being in the upper reaches of the Amazon river bordering Colombia and Peru.
Incidentally, Brazil’s main tribal umbrella organization APIB, includes COVID-19 cases of indigenous people who have migrated to urban areas and who are not treated by Sesai. In a report the group said, there has been a rise in the death toll which touched 103, up from 18 on April 3.
Around three fourths of the 540 confirmed COVID-19 cases come from the 40 tribes who are in the Amazon; the outbreak of the virus has hit Manaus so badly that it was the first Brazilian city to run out of ICU beds; Manaus’ main cemetery buries the dead in collective graves.
According to Siqueira, the son of an evangelical missionary, who spent his childhood in an indigenous village in the Amazon, the Chinese virus may have begun in Wuhan, it has reached Brazilian cities and villages including those in the remote jungle. Its impact is worsening in remote regions, he said.
“Towns must isolate and stop the virus from reaching the indigenous villages or many more will die,” said Siqueira.