COVID-19 has not spared tribal settlements in Kerala despite the state government’s measures to curb the spread of the disease. The Kunchipara tribal settlement in Kuttampuzha panchayat of Ernakulam district on June 4 reported 50 COVID-19 cases, and another 12 on June 5. This comes a few days after 43 people from the tribal community tested positive in Thera hamlet, which is also in Kuttampuzha.
Initially, all the 50 infected people from Kunchipara, including five children below 10 years, were shifted to health facilities on June 4. Fifteen other people in the hamlet have been tested too, and their results are awaited, said medical officer Anoop Thulasi. On June 5, 12 people who complained of fever were brought down to Kuttampuzha, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, said Health Inspector Shiju TK. "They were given food and some were provided new clothes before being shifted to the domiciliary care centres," said Shiju.
The patients were ferried in jeeps from Kunchipara to Blavanakadavu over an 8-km distance. From there, they needed to cross a lake on a ferry before being shifted to an ambulance and taken to various domiciliary centres. The panchayat president Kanthi Vellakkayyan is extending all assistance for shifting the tribals to domiciliary care centres, he said.
Nearly 10 days ago, an elderly man died in Thera tribal settlement after he fell ill and was hospitalized. He tested negative for the virus, but apparently, two people who visited him had COVID-19, said TP Jolly, senior police officer, Kuttampuzha. "We were expecting these cases after 43 people who attended a funeral in Thera tested positive a few days ago. Nearly 20 people from Kunchipara had also attended the funeral," Anoop Thulasi said.
According to Anoop, the first dose of vaccine has been administered to the tribal communities in Kunchipara and nearby hamlets.
The total number of inhabitants in Kunchipara and Thera are 364 and 104 respectively, said Shiju.
The communities largely rely on selling forest produce for a living. The food kits distributed by the state government come as a relief for them, Jolly said.
Over 17,400 people from tribal communities have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 31. Most of these cases were reported in the last two months, the report in The Indian Express said.