Hopes of sheltering poorly protected communities from the worst effects of the pandemic have suffered severe setbacks with outbreaks amongst the Shipibo and Konibo in Ucayali and Lima, and the Tikuna and Yagua of Loreto region, where Peru shares its frontier with Brazil and Colombia.

In the community of Cantagallo in metropolitan Lima, a 20-year old settlement of Shipibo artisans, the rate of infection has reached very high levels, with 73% of 656 individuals proving positive in tests administered during the last week by health authorities. Three deaths have occurred there, without health attention owing to social isolation regulations.

Malnutrition is rife in the settlement as only a third of the population has access to the bono. The settlement’s rudimentary housing, water and sanitation have been overwhelmed by the arrival of additional Shipibo previously working in Ica but unable to return to Ucayali due to travel restrictions. The Defensoría has set out some of the community’s essential needs.

The Shipibo communities in Ucayali also face infection without prospect of medical attention. Half of the population of San Francisco, a community of artisans near Pucallpa, is reportedly infected with either Covid-19 or dengue. Upriver, the 42-year old Shipibo mayor of the district of Masisea contracted Covid-19 and was transferred to Pucallpa, where he died without receiving attention from the hospital which, as in Iquitos, is overwhelmed.

In Loreto six Tikuna have died in Bellavista de Callarú, a community of 3,600 with six further individuals in danger and at least 60 infected. According to a health worker, the virus was introduced by a Tikuna family that travelled to claim the bono at a bank in the city of Santa Rosa, on the frontier with Leticia, Colombia and Tabatinga, Brazil, where infection rates are high.

As we reported previously, 20 communities of Awajún along the river Corrientes were exposed to the virus by the municipality of Trompeteros which in April made house-to-house deliveries of food by a team including the mayor, eleven of whom were already infected. These cases have led Servindi to suggest that directly or indirectly the state is the primary vector of the virus in indigenous communities.