Remote Indian Ocean Tribe Tests Positive for Coronavirus

This picture taken 27 December 2005 after the first anniversary of the deadly tsunami that devasted much of Asia, Mion (L), a member of near extinct Great Andamanese aboriginal tribe, sits with his sister Ichika by the waterfront in Port Blair. The memory of the thousands listed as missing since …
PRATAP CHAKRAVARTY/AFP via Getty Images

Four members of an indigenous tribe in India’s remote Andaman Islands have tested positive for the coronavirus, Indian health officials said on Thursday.

The Great Andamanese count only 53 surviving members, meaning the positive virus cases pose a serious threat to the ancient tribe’s survival.

The Great Andamanese are one of six indigenous tribes that have inhabited the Andaman Islands in the northeastern Indian Ocean for thousands of years. The archipelago is located in the Bay of Bengal roughly 80 miles southwest of the coast of Myanmar, which rules over some of the islands. Most of the islands comprise the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which India governs as federal territory.

For several weeks, Dr. Avijit Roy has led India’s effort to contain the Andaman Islands’ coronavirus outbreak. He says his team traveled to a remote island inhabited by most of the Great Andamanese to test all members there for coronavirus last week. Four of the tribe members tested positive for coronavirus, Dr. Roy told the BBC on Thursday.

“They have been moved to [a] hospital,” he said. Indian health officials suspect the men may have traveled from the remote islet to the main Andaman Islands where they likely caught the virus.

Six other Great Andaman tribe members who lived in Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, tested positive for the coronavirus a month ago, according to Dr. Roy. All six have since recovered.

The doctor said his team was now monitoring other indigenous tribes on the islands for further spread of the virus.

“We are keeping a close watch on movements and mass testing some of the [other Andaman] tribes,” Dr. Roy said.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have recorded 2,985 infections and 41 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus since first detecting the virus’s presence on the archipelago in early June, according to the report.

India, the world’s second-most populous country, “has posted the highest single-day caseload in the world every day since August 7,” Reuters reported on Thursday, citing official health data. On Thursday, India reported 75,760 new coronavirus cases, its “highest single-day spike yet,” according to Business Insider India.

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