At least five members of the Great Andamanese tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have tested positive for the coronavirus, human rights organisation Survival International said in a press release on Wednesday. Of the five, two have been admitted to hospital, it said.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have so far reported 2,945 cases of the coronavirus, including 37 deaths and 2,231 recoveries, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The population of the islands is around 4 lakh.
The Andaman and Nicobar administration had decided to send the members of the Great Andamanese tribe to the Strait Island after coronavirus testing, News18 reported on August 24. It was at this time that five members of the tribe tested positive.
Presently, only 56 members of the Great Andamanese tribe are still alive, down from over 5,000 in the 1850s. The numbers of other tribes are also dwindling. Only 238 members of the Shompen tribe now survive, besides 520 from the Jarawa tribe and approximately 120 and 150 people from the Onge and Sentinelese tribes.
“We are taking all precautionary measures to protect these Vulnerable Tribal Groups from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda told News18. “Officials are regularly in touch with the local administration in Port Blair [the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands]. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are very keen to act for the welfare of the indigenous tribal group in the islands.”
Munda said he will seek a report from the Tribal Welfare Department in Port Blair on the infections among the Great Andamanese tribe, and take all measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“It is extremely alarming that members of the Great Andamanese tribe tested positive for Covid-19,” Survival International Senior Researcher Sophie Grig said. “They will be all too aware of the devastating impact of epidemics that have decimated their people. The Andaman authorities must act urgently to prevent the virus reaching more Great Andamanese and to prevent infection in the other tribes.”