Brazilian military flies doctors to test Amazon tribe for COVID-19

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The Brazilian military has on 6th October, 2020 wrapped up a three-week operation that provided medical care to the Amazon’s Guajajara tribe hit by COVID-19.

This was in response to criticism that Brazil was not protecting vulnerable indigenous people from the pandemic.

Guajajara leaders praised the armed forces for air lifting doctors and nurses to do rapid COVID-19 tests.

They however criticized the government’s indigenous health service SESAI for not protecting them against the novel coronavirus.

The Defense Ministry said its doctors did “37,000 checkups since September 24 and supplied 39 tonnes of medicine, food and protective equipment to the Guajajara, a tribe that lives on several reservations in the rainforest of Maranhão state.”

According to SESAI, which only provides healthcare to those living on reservations, there have been 447 deaths from COVID-19 so far among Brazil’s 800,000 indigenous people.

Another 388 have died off reservation in urban areas, according to the main indigenous umbrella organization APIB.

SESAI director Robson Santos said, “The lethality rate for COVID-19 cases among Brazil’s indigenous people had turned out to be much lower than expected, at 1.5%.”

The country’s total death toll reached 146,352 on 5th of October, 2020 and it had 4,915,289 confirmed cases.

Carlos Travassos, a former head of isolated tribes at the government’s indigenous affairs agency Funai, said the medical outreach was a media operation to show that the government was fighting COVID-19 among indigenous communities.

“This was just for Englishmen to see,” he said, using a Brazilian expression for doing things for the sake of appearances.

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