As coronavirus outbreak reaches South America, indigenous people go into lockdown

For decades, indigenous groups from Colombia to Brazil have been fighting the threat to their lives posed by oil exploration, deforestation and illegal logging.

Now, the battle is against the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Indigenous tribes are locking down and closing off their reserves to visitors as they fear the disease that is fast spreading across South America could wipe them out.

As they have little or no immunity to common outside diseases, “an epidemic can wipe out an entire tribe,” warned Jonathan Mazower, communications director at London-based Survival International, an indigenous rights group.

While, so far, no confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported among indigenous people in South America, Canada’s Navajo Nation has at least 26 confirmed cases in parts of North America, according to the tribe’s newspaper.

Across Latin America and the Caribbean, cases of the highly contagious illness are rising daily, with more than 4,000 infected and almost 50 deaths, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).

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