As this article is written, more coronavirus outbreaks are being reported around the world. It is enough to make even the most social person in the world recoil at the very thought of contracting the highly contagious virus. That is why more and more cities, states, and countries are going into lockdown.
Even the most remote areas and towns are suffering from reports of infections. Small towns that would otherwise not suffer from many cases, are plagued with cases due to wealthy people coming there to escape. It leaves one asking whether or not there is any safe place to find refuge.
If there is one place you would bet is safe from the coronavirus, you would probably guess remote areas in the jungle. What reason would coronavirus have to be there? Unfortunately, tribes in Brazil may be at risk, despite not trying to or wanting to contact people outside of their area.
There are many different viewpoints on what civilized society should do about tribes in remote areas. Do we leave them be, or do we try to intervene to help them survive even longer? The company Ethnos360 is a self proclaimed “aviation missionary” organization. The aviation part comes from the helicopter they use to send supplies to remote parts of Brazil. They are based in Arizona.
This organization has used a bush plane in western Brazil before using their helicopter. They aim to reach “the last tribe regardless of where that tribe might be.” Their bush plane made it difficult for them to operate due to needing a landing strip, as well as different permits. WIth their helicopter, they hope to “open the door to reach ten additional people groups living in extreme isolation.” Is that mission a good idea in the face of coronavirus?
Western Brazil is an especially unique area in that it has the most uncontacted tribes in the world. This is according to Survival International, a nonprofit that fights for indigenous people's land rights. Survival International doesn't believe that we should contact tribes that don't want to be contacted. According to them, the hostility that tribes exhibit to outsiders is proof that outsiders are not wanted.
There are laws in place to stop people from contacting these tribes, however, an evangelical missionary was recently put in a position of power at the government's agency for indigenous people, so there are fears that these laws will be taken down or ignored. Indigenous tribes are especially susceptible to diseases like covid-19 because they are so isolated. Contacting them at a time like this is especially dangerous given the lack of natural immunity.
Covid-19 (coronavirus) is a respiratory disease. According to a health specialist, Douglas Rodrigues, respiratory diseases are especially dangerous to indigenous Brazilian. As it stands, Brazil has 621 confirmed cases of coronavirus, although that number is probably much larger due to the lack of reporting. Right now social isolation is our best bet for culling the virus, so avoiding already isolated tribes should be upheld.
Jessie Abbate is a biologist for infectious diseases. She said, “traveling for unnecessary purposes right now is completely irresponsible behavior.” She added, “everyone should assume they have been exposed.” Any person who were to make contact with these indigenous tribes could be the one person that brings it to the entire village, decimating them. Ethos360 has not commented on whether or not they have halted operations, but it seems as though they have continued their operations.