Four more members of the Great Andamanese tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have tested positive for the coronavirus, taking the tally to 10, officials said on Thursday, according to PTI. There are about 50 members of the Great Andamanese tribe who live on Strait Island and the government looks after their food and shelter.
Out of the 10 members who were found positive, six have recovered and been put into home quarantine, AFP reported. The remaining have been admitted to a hospital for treatment.
On Sunday, the health authorities had deployed a team after six members of the tribe were diagnosed with Covid-19 recently in Port Blair, the capital of the Union Territory.
Some of the tribe members have a government job in the capital and regularly travel there.
“The team tested 37 samples and four members of the Great Andamanese tribe were found to be positive,” Health Department Deputy Director and Nodal Officer Avijit Roy said. “They are admitted to a hospital.”
Anthropologists say the strength of the tribe was over 5,000 when Britishers arrived on the island in the 19th Century.
Many were killed defending their land against the British. Later, many more succumbed to epidemics such as influenza, measles and syphilis, according to a nonprofit organisation Survival International.
“It is extremely alarming that members of the Great Andamanese tribe tested positive for Covid-19,” Sophie Grigg, senior researcher for the group, was quoted as saying by the BBC. “They will be all too aware of the devastating impact of epidemics that have decimated their people.”
Recently, concern has grown for the safety of the various tribes, including the Great Andamanese, the Jarawas and the Sentinelese. The latter has not integrated with the mainstream population and is hostile to outsiders. In 2018, a missionary, John Allen Chau, was killed when tried to enter their land. His body was never retrieved.
The 476-odd members of the Jarawa tribe recently moved to the farthest part of the jungle in view of the pandemic, officials said, adding that wanted to reduce the possibility of contact with outsiders.
Outsiders are not allowed on the island to protect the Sentinelese way of life. Further, the tribe is extremely vulnerable to diseases, especially during a global pandemic, experts believe.
“The Andaman authorities must act urgently to prevent the virus [from] reaching more Great Andamanese and to prevent infection in the other tribes,” said Grigg.
The Union Territory has so far reported 3,018 coronavirus cases, according to the Union health ministry. There are 602 active cases, while 2,374 have recovered. The toll is 42.