BOGOTA, Colombia 

The coronavirus keeps spreading across Brazil, which registered a nationwide total of 2,287,475 cases and 84,082 deaths Thursday.  

In the world’s number-two coronavirus hotspot after the United States, the virus could threaten the health of the indigenous communities.

Brazil has 7,946 COVID-19 cases and 177 deaths among indigenous people, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

One of the most influential indigenous leaders, Aritana Yawalapiti, 70, was admitted Wednesday to a hospital for COVID-19 in the central city of Goiania.

And in Angra dos Reis, on the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, the leader of the Sapukai Guarani tribe, Domingos Venite, died Tuesday from the coronavirus after spending nearly a month in the hospital. He was the leader of the largest indigenous tribe in the state of Rio.

Authorities in the municipality ordered the community not to perform rituals in honor of Venite to avoid infection, but an official three-day period of mourning was decreed in the city that is home to 350 indigenous families. Some 88 members of the community are infected.

Several human rights organizations have expressed concern as the pandemic threatens to wipe out many of the groups that live in isolation away from hospitals.

A commission linked to the Organization of American States (OAS) regional bloc asked the government to take steps to protect indigenous peoples from the virus.

“The commission considers that … the rights to life, personal integrity, and health of members of the Yanomami and Yekuana indigenous peoples are under serious threat,” according to the commission.

President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed several points of a law July 8 aimed at protecting indigenous communities from COVID-19, including assured access to drinking water, free distribution of hygiene products like soap and toothpaste and cleaning and disinfection materials for indigenous communities. Hospital beds and intensive care units, and the acquisition of ventilators and blood oxygenation machines were also turned down.

He justified the decision by saying the provisions were unconstitutional because they created excessive expenditures for the federal government.

Earlier this week, PAHO called on regional governments “to intensify efforts in order to prevent further spread of infection within these communities, as well as to ensure adequate access to healthcare services,” among indigenous people.

According to PAHO, 31,249 cases and 1,135 deaths were reported among indigenous communities in Bolivia.  

In Colombia, 1,534 confirmed cases have been reported and more than 73 deaths, while 4,498 cases and 144 deaths were confirmed in Ecuador.  

Mexico registered 4,092 cases and 649 fatalities of indigenous peoples.

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