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10 members of Andaman tribe test positive for coronavirus, officials on high alert

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10 members of Andaman tribe test positive for coronavirus, officials on high alert 2

NEW DELHI: Officials monitoring the welfare of tribals in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are taking stringent measures to stop Covid-19 from spreading among the vulnerable groups, after 10 members of the Great Andamanese tribe tested positive for the disease.

Officials said the infected had either mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

“Out of 10 tested positive, three have recovered. The others are admitted to GB Pant Hospital as a precaution or are in home isolation. Most of them have now been shifted back to Strait Island,” an official said.

There are six notified scheduled tribes in the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Except Nicobarese, the rest –Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Onge, Shompen and Sentinelese–are recognised as particularly vulnerable tribal groups(PVTGs).

Officials said field functionaries are raising awareness among the tribes about Covid-19 with pictures and videos in their own language. They have also been provided with supplementary nutrition, the officials told ET.

People in the know said the administration had started taking precautionary measures much before coronavirus cases were detected on the islands.

“The Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti (AAJVS), a registered society of the government, is monitoring and overseeing the welfare and protection of PVTGs, whereas the deputy commissioner of Nicobar district, through Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), is taking care of the welfare and wellbeing of Nicobarese tribe,” said a senior official.

In view of the virus’s propensity to spread fast, the Great Andamanese and Jarawa tribes have been shifted to Strait Island and the west coast of Jarawa reserve, respectively, to keep them from coming in contact with outsiders.

The administration has also restricted movement to the area for the safety of the Jarawa tribe.

“Field functionaries have been regularly advised to interact with the tribal people with face masks, gloves and keeping distance. The movement of field functionaries of AAJVS and other line departments to the tribal settlements is being allowed only after Covid testing, and they have been advised not to move outside the tribal settlement and interact with outsiders,” an official said.

While the Jarawas have been advised to stay in smaller groups to avoid any possible spread of the virus, the patrolling on the west coast has been intensified. The fisheries department has also sensitised fishermen not to interact with Jarawas.

“Intensive monitoring of Jarawa movement in Yeaterji, Bamboof Tikrey, Phooltala, Santipur and Katai Dera is being carried out by AAJVS staff,” said the official.

According to the district administration, although they had shifted all Great Andamanese to Strait Island in April after conducting Covid-19 test, many of the Great Andamanese returned to Port Blair in June after the government started easing lockdown measures as they are in government jobs and have government accommodation in Port Blair.

After the detection of Covid -19 among the Great Andamanese, the administration had taken some samples of Onge tribals from Dugong Creek and they all tested negative.

The administration also plans to conduct random testing of the Jarawa tribe soon.

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