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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Kerala: 2nd Covid-19 surge sees rise in cases among tribals

By the end of January, around 3,000 tribals had contracted the infection, but this figure reached 17,401 as per data on May 31. Of the 8,815 Covid-related deaths in Kerala, 146 were of tribals -- the toll stood at 35 at the end of January.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
June 2, 2021 4:17:22 am
Vaccination at a tribal settlement in Attappadi.

While 7.67 per cent of the general population has tested positive for Covid, only 3.59 per cent of the total tribal population in Kerala has contracted the disease so far, according to data. But the major chunk of these infections among tribal communities has been reported within the last two months, according to data.

By the end of January, around 3,000 tribals had contracted the infection, but this figure reached 17,401 as per data on May 31. Of the 8,815 Covid-related deaths in Kerala, 146 were of tribals — the toll stood at 35 at the end of January.

The population of tribal communities in the state is pegged at 4.84 lakh as per the last Census.

According to officials in Kerala’s tribal department, restrictions on entry to tribal hamlets, low prevalence of lifestyle diseases among tribals, and alertness shown by various departments had helped these communities cushion the impact of the pandemic in the first wave.

However, cases started spiking in recent months pointing to increased exposure during the second wave of the pandemic. And some officials say the sale of spurious liquor and the Assembly poll campaigns may be to blame.

“During the Assembly elections, the endangered communities got exposed to the general population. Around 80 per cent of the confirmed cases reported among tribals happened in the last two months. Many settlements are now frequented by the general population who came in search of hooch, which is rampant among tribals. This has also contributed to a sudden spike in cases. At present, in some tribal belts, the test positivity rate is at 50 per cent,” officials said.

However, officials said the situation is different in Attappadi, the state’s only tribal block where 40 per cent of the population is tribal and where the general population is more affected by the pandemic. Of the 2,259 cases reported in Attappadi, 816 were among tribals, while five members of the tribal community were among the total 23 Covid-related deaths in the area.

The state government has decided to vaccinate all tribals aged above 18 irrespective of comorbidities, considering the vulnerability of tribal communities.

“A rough estimate shows 3 lakh tribals above the age of 18 have to be vaccinated immediately. Concept of social distancing would not work among these groups. The only solution to insulate them is to give vaccine shots to as many people as possible. So far, 74,000 tribals have got one dose of vaccine,” said an official.

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